Mussels – PineNeedle Smoked & Mexican Style

Why is it so hard to get good mussels?  Maybe because we are in AZ?  Yet, I can make my own so easily… and so perfectly.  So many people are afraid to make shellfish (mussels and clams) at home.  Maybe they are afraid they will get sick from them if not prepared right.  The only time I have ever gotten sick from shell fish has been from restaurants.  I would argue that making them at home offers us the opportunity to cull off any questionable or unopened mussels to assure that you don’t get sick… something I can’t be sure a restaurant does.  Moreover, so often restaurant mussels aren’t cooked fresh and often overcooked and mealy tasting.  Bleh.

We get a bag at Costco… keep them on ice, and take them home and cook them right away.

We cook the whole bag, even though it’s too much for the two of us, but we use the cooked leftovers for curried mussel soup or other preparations that might call for cooked, just warmed through mussels.

Cooking the whole bag also gives us the opportunity to cook the mussels in multiple preparations… so here are two… and I’ll post another for the leftover mussels.

Maybe you’ve heard of smoked mussels.  They yield this smokey, wonderful flavor to the delicate mussels.  They are just great.  We have tried various recipes that sorta worked… even building apparatus (nails on boards to hold them upright), with awkward results.  Here’s our simple method that works really well… and deliciously.

Pine Needle Smoked Mussels:

Here on the mountain, pine needles are plentiful.  They can be found everywhere and anywhere.  This time of year the pine needles are well dried.  So we can easily scoop them up and pile them atop our grill (they should be well dried – I actually collect pine cones and pine needles fresh and allow them to dry all year, and use them for fire starter and smoking throughout the year).  Don’t light the propane on your grill… no charcoal… just lay the mussels atop the dried pine needles, and light the pine needles directly.

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Once they start to open,  pull them off with tongs one by one as they open.  If they don’t open, throw them out.  Be aware, if you cook them long enough the fire will burn through the shells.

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Arrange them on a platter… smoked mussels.  They are juicy, smoky, and amazingly delicious.  We served these as a first course / appetizer prior to the main course mussels.

Mexican Style Mussels:

I often will do your traditional mussels – onion, garlic, wine, lemon, tomato, parsley… but I easily bore of same, same.  So this time I opted to do a mexican style mussel using the same basic principle.

I made a mexican style roasted salsa (which by the way is good on anything, including just with chips).  I soaked a variety of dried chilies in hot water: ancho, guajillo, arbol to rehydrate.  Meanwhile I set out my veg to grill: halved onion, jalapeno, and halved tomatoes (~3-4).  I drizzled oil and salt of the veg and grilled them until charred.  Then I cut the stem off the grilled jalapeno and the soaked rehydrated chilies, and put everything in the food processor to puree.  Add salt and a little lime (add chicken broth or chile soaking liquid, if you want a little more liquidous).  Season / adjust to taste.  Once you make this salsa… you’ll be making it again.. and using it as dip!

With my roasted salsa made, I was ready to start the mussels.

In traditional style, I sautéed onion, garlic, a little red chile flake (as if I needed it), chopped tomato, and white wine (1/2 – 1 cup)… simmer briefly, then added a couple large dollops of my roasted salsa… and then added the mussels and covered.

I turned the mussels a few times to make sure they were cooking evenly.. and then recovered.. checking on them until most were opened.  Those that don’t open get pitched.

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I sprinkled a little cilantro over top.. and served them with fresh toasted bread… to soak up all that spicy wonderful broth.  Wow!  I have a new favorite mussel preparation.

 

 

 

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