Melissa Elsmo

For many of us the days are starting to blur together, but Illinois is finally about to allow for socially distant patio dining at local restaurants. That is a significant ray of hope for restaurant fans and owners, but before we all jump at the chance to eat meals in public again, I thought I would offer a restaurant-inspired, make-at-home meal that celebrates the strength within our food community. We’re really muscling our way through this quarantine!

Mussels are a mealtime favorite at my house because they quick cooking, boldly flavored, and fun to eat.  Years ago, while eating Moules Frites, our French exchange student taught us how to use an empty shell as eating utensil—after cooking just use a hinged shell like a set of tongs or pincers to extract a mussel its shell, dunk it in the broth and pop in your mouth. All you need is some crusty bread to sop up some of the broth and your hands-on meal is complete!

This recipe can be adjusted up or down based on the number of people you want to feed—increase the quantity of aromatics and liquid and plan for ¾ to one pound of mussels per person.

See you on a local patio after the 29th and until then keep on “musseling” through!

Mussels with Chorizo and Smoked Paprika (serves 3-4)

Scrub the mussels well and place them on a bed of ice and store in the refrigerator until ready to cook. Do not cover the bowl or you will smother the mussels. While cleaning pinch any partially open mussels closed—if any do not close discard the mussel. Discard mussels with cracked shells.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 8 ounces dry-cured Spanish chorizo, diced
  • 1 small sweet onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 small red pepper, seeded and diced
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
  • 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 4 Cups of white wine
  • 3 pounds fresh mussels, scrubbed and beards removed
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • ¼ Cup Italian parsley, chopped
  • Crusty bread for serving

Instructions:

Heat the olive oil and 2 Tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat in a large, heavy-bottomed stock pot. After the butter melts add the onion, celery and red pepper. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally until soft, but not brown—about 8 minutes. Add the smoked paprika, crushed red pepper flakes, and garlic. Cook until fragrant—about 30 seconds. Add the wine and remaining butter to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Taste the broth and adjust seasoning.

Increase the heat to high. When broth boils add the cleaned mussels and give them a good stir. Cover the pot with a tight fitting and allow the mussels to steam. Mussels are done as soon as they open—about 5 minutes. Discard any mussels that do not open.

Use a slotted spoon or spider to transfer the mussels to three or four bowls. Ladle the chorizo broth evenly over the mussels. Garnish with the chopped parsley and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Serve at once with fresh bread.

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