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Spicy Mussels a la Valenciana

Mussels a la Valenciana
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Valencia is the third largest city in Spain after Madrid and Barcelona and boasts the fifth largest port in Europe. The city sits on the eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula and the western part of the Mediterranean Sea. The cuisine of the region is incredibly diverse. Though rice dishes dominate much of the area, Valencian gastronomy encompasses plenty of seafood along the coastal plains and game in the inland mountains.

These spicy mussels are a true reflection of traditional Valencian tapas. The dish is fragrant with saffron and white wine and perfect for a summertime meal. If you can’t make it to Spain, this recipe will help take you there…in spirit at least!

Adapted from The New York Times, 2012

Ingredients & Method (yields 4 servings)

  • 3 ½ pounds black mussels2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 10 hazelnuts, skinned and toasted
  • 10 almonds, skinned and toasted
  • 4 garlic cloves, mince
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper flakes
  • 14 oz crushed tomatoes, canned
  • pinch of sugar
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • pinch of saffron
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Mussels a la Valenciana b

Make sure mussels are clean and closed. Discard any that have opened (if some are partly open, tap them with your finger and it they close back up they are okay) or have cracked shells. Place mussels in a large bowl, fill with cold water and rinse several times. Scrub shells if necessary and remove beards.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large heavy bottom pot with a fitted lid and add hazelnuts and almonds. Cook, stirring, until the nuts are golden brown and toasty. Add ½ amount of garlic and cook until fragrant. Remove from heat, cool and transfer to a mini food processor.  Pulse until mixture is slightly pasty but still has texture. Fold in 1 tablespoon of chopped parsley and set aside.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat and add onion. Cook until it is tender and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add remaining garlic and Aleppo and cook until garlic is fragrant. Add tomatoes, pinch of sugar and salt and pepper to taste. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 20-30 minutes, stirring often. Add saffron and wine and bring back to a boil. Add mussels, cover and shake pot to coat mussels in sauce, for about 4 minutes or until shells open. Uncover and stir to coat evenly. As they open, transfer to a large bowl. Discard any that have not opened. Stir in the remaining parsley and nut mixture to sauce and adjust seasoning with if necessary.

Mussels a la Valenciana c

Distribute mussels in large deep bowls and pour sauce over. Serve with bread for dunking.

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