Mussels and Chorizo (with Bread!)

French Fridays with Dorie

Mussels and Chorizo

It wasn’t too long ago that the sight of uncooked mussels would carry me back to the summers of my
youth in Newport Beach, California. The thought of eating these creatures would never have occurred to me back then.  We would play on the beach and pry the mussels that grew on harbor piers to use as fishing bait.   Given that mussels are filter feeders and the bay at that time wasn’t exactly known for its pristine waters I doubt many others would have considered them for fine dining either.

Even though my friends and I would not have wanted to eat them anyway my grandmother would always make a big show of reminding us that some people, somewhere, actually enjoyed eating these gooey snot-like creatures.  “Oooh, gross!” we would always exclaim.  We were content to smash them with a hammer, dig out their organs with the dull kitchen knife she allowed us use for bait and slither them onto fishing hooks.  Mussel ooze would stain the sidewalk and mark the spot where we were fishing that particular afternoon.

Grandma’s tales of humans feasting on mussels seemed so outrageous that I’m not sure we ever believed actually her.   To my young ears these tales sounded like the tales my classmate Jessica Ditweiler would tell of the time came back from a Japanese vacation and shared how she ate (gasp!)  raw fish.  I didn’t believe Jessica either.    I mean, raw fish?

It seems unimaginable to me that the young boy of yesterday could transported by the site of a bucket of mussels not to the beaches of Newport, but rather to the bistros of Paris or New York.

But they do.

My imagination usually includes sharing a bowl of mussels with dear friends since sharing a bowl of moules and a bottle or two of Vueve Cliquot is probably the best way reacquaint with a dear friends.   At no time in the evolution of my childhood imagination into an adult reality did I ever dream that I would make delicious mussels all by myself and in my own home.

Until this week, I hadn’t.

Mussels and Chorizo

Mussels have been at the top of my “Foods I’ve Always Wanted to Make  But Haven’t Yet” list for years even though everything I had read about moules promised they were easier to make than scrambled eggs.  Still, I had not gotten around to making them.

Maybe it was the bait thing? It seemed that where mussels were concerned I was defintily suffering from “chef’s block”.

If it wasn’t the latent memories of fishing ooze maybe it was my unfamiliarity with cooking a food that could die in my fridge that was the cause of my chef’s block?  Mussels do need to be kept alive, over ice, wet, and able to breath real oxygen while they wait to be cooked. That seems like a lot of responsibility to take on, doesn’t it?   What if I accidentally serve up a rigor mortised bivalve in a deceptively lovely sauce and accidentally kill a loved one?

Stop laughing!  Haven’t we all heard stories of people who have known someone (who knows someone) who got fatal (or at least really really bad) food poisoning “from some bad mussels”?

Of course now I can’t even recall which friend of a friend I heard this about first now but somehow I began likening the unfounded dangers of dining at home on mussels to the real life thrill seeking equivalent  of munching on some potentially deadly Fugu sashimi.  One wrong bite and “bam“!

Somehow it has just seemed a lot less stressful to me to leave this dish to the professionals!

Mussels and Chorizo

Mussels and Chorizo (with Bread!)

I needn’t have worried.  Making mussels at home is a lot easier than getting a reservation for Sunday lunch at New York’s Balthazar and its a heck of a lot cheaper than flying to Paris to enjoy a bowl.  This ve11111rsion, with its use of chorizo as a primary flavor will take you to Barcelona instead of Paris.  Its nice for your imagination to have a choice of destination when it travels so I decided to conquer my fears.

My anxiety was unfounded.

One needn’t worry about accidental poisoning since that danger turns out to be a bit overstated.    A closed shell indicates that the mussel died before cooking so eat only the ones that open when you cook them.    Discard the unopened ones and move on but even should you eat a ‘borderline’ mussel Spencer Garret of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fisheries service promises that the risk is minimal since cooking heat will likely kill any bacteria.  “Even if its dead when you bought it, it probably won’t make you sick”, he says.

These mussels were put in a big bowl in the center of the table with a baguette to sop up the flavored sauce and before we knew we were sitting in a seaside restaurant overlooking the ocean catching up with good friends, telling stories and drinking too much wine.

I couldn’t have imagined it better.


Mussels and Chorizo

Mussels and Chorizo (with Bread!)

Mussels and Chorizo (with Bread!)

(Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s “Around My French Table“)

This is what you will need:

  • 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • salt and fresh pepper
  • 2 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 pound mexican chorizo, crumbled, cooked, and drained on paper towels until ready to use.
  • 4 punds mussels, scrubbed and debearded if necessary. Discard any that are open.
  • 1/4 cup white wine. Save the rest of the bottle to drink with friends while you enjoy dinner.
  • Bread.

This is how you make it:

  1. Start with a large dutch oven or casserole that has a cover as you will need everything to fit inside it. Heat up the oil in the pan.
  2. When hot, add the bell pepper, onion, garlic, thyme and 1 teaspoon salt, a bit of pepper and then cook while stirring until the vegetables are soft. This should take about 5 minutes.
  3. Mix in the tomatoes and chorizo crumbles and cook for 5 more minutes until everything is warmed through and hot.
  4. Acting swiftly, dump the mussels into the pot with wine and turn up the heat to high, give a good stir and cover the pot and continue to cook for 3 minutes. No need to stir the pot but you can shake it while covered once or twice half way through.
  5. After the 3 minutes, turn off the heat and let pot sit for 1 minute, resting and waiting for the mussels to open up.
  6. Serve immediately. Spoon into bowls and serve with bread, wine, and good friends. If you plan on being transported away, have your passport ready.

It is just that easy!

Note: Dorie Greenspan says this is equally good over pasta but as you can see I chose bread.  As far as I’m concerned bread is the only appropriate choice.  What you want here is efficiency with mopping up the tasty broth.    You will want all of it.  I wasn’t able to use the Spanish chorizo Dorie suggests.  Her glossary suggests that it is not interchangeable with the Mexican variety I had on hand but, it is.  I just cooked it up myself before starting the recipe and it was just excellent as the main flavoring for the dish.   I suspect that the Doristas who make up French Fridays with Dorie will be subbing in whatever sausagey delights they have locally as well.

I want to try this one using Pernod or Sambuca instead of white wine…

About Trevor Kensey

To be truthful, I don’t know what “Sis. Boom. [blog!]” means either. The name implies something explosive just happened I suppose I would like it if each post would make made a small ‘boom’ in your day or at least a fizzle. Even though a recipe is included with every post I have a hard time calling this a “food blog” or even myself a “food blogger”.

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  1. Your mussels look wonderful and delicious! Glad it wasn’t too stressful to cook them! 😉

  2. It’s amazing how time gives us a different perspective on things – these msssels don’t look like ooze at all. Glad you enjoyed them.

  3. I think my hubby still thinks they are gooey snot-like creatures! But that makes more for me 🙂 Great write up, Trevor…

  4. Lovely post!!! My Mr Neil also thought that Pernod might be a nice addition to this one!

  5. Love your post! The mussels look delicious, and I laughed that you Googled the “danger” of cooking with mussels. Kudos!

  6. Glad to see that you survived to share your experience. Whew!
    Welcome back, Trevor. Now we don’t have to come chasing after you with our “Dorista brooms” to herd you back into the fold. (Which is quite the mental image – take it where you will…)
    We went the Sam Adams & Alabama sausage route, but the Pernod sounds delightful.

  7. These photos are really lovely, especially considering you probably had to take them rather quickly so the food didn’t get cold. And I agree, bread is the way to go with this dis. I must say – what nice mussels you have!

  8. Great write up and photos! I have many of your same pre-making-this-dish imaginings. Your mussels dish is beautiful and I’m sure it tasted as good as it looks.

  9. Your mussels look wonderful. Welcome back.

  10. I made homemade ciabatta (as you know) and it was totally worth it! Delicious and filling and absolutely no need for the pasta! You would have had to knock down walls to get my out of the dining room and break my chair if I had eaten all the mussels, bread AND pasta! Hehe! … I have never heard of anyone truly getting sick from mussels that weren’t allergic to them or something, I think its a foolproof dish as well!
    Alice @

  11. Trevor, Your mussels look amazing…love your photos!
    I too, have had chef block when it came to making shell fish. Glad to know we outgrow some of our quirks! This one was a winner!

  12. Congrats on overcoming your fear! I used to be scared of mussels too, it seems so silly now that I know how easy they are, but it took me years to work up the courage. And like you, cassoulet remains on my list, one day I swear I will get to it.

  13. Mouth watering!!!

  14. Summers in Newport– that’s where we spent ours too. So great.

    As for getting sick on mussels, I wonder if your Dad’s friend was allergic to shellfish? I am, unfortunately, but it took awhile to detect because I didn’t get sick every time I ate it. For that reason, I can only salivate over your pictures and taste this beautiful dish you created vicariously… alas.

  15. How many mussels
    Suffocated in my fridge
    Due to poor storage?

    I should channel your tipsy imagination next time. We don’t have Pernod in the house but there must be a dusty bottle of Sambuca somewhere.

  16. I LOVE LOVE LOVE Mussels!!! Can’t wait to try the recipe out!

  17. Wow the words and photos took my breath away… Brilliant!

  18. These are gorgeous! I would totally join you in downing bottles of Vueve Cliquot. I would also share these mussels with you… if only I could eat them without keeling over from anaphylactic shock. C’est la vie. le sigh.

  19. A fantastic recipe and a wonderful read. Thank you for sharing a piece of your childhood with us and this dish, a bit too much wine and good friends around the table sounds just about perfect!

  20. Amazing pictures. I grew up in a mussel loving environment, and here’s what I learned if you’re worried about if your mussels have dies early. If the mussels are open before you cook them, then toss them, and if they’re closed after the cooking, toss them. There are usually a few that need to be discarded on either end of the cooking. Loved this post!

  21. You had me at Veuve Clicquot! Oh, and the cassoulet – it’s on my list too. Lovely photos, and I’ve noticed that you share the same opinion as we do on sopping up the sauce with bread.

  22. Glad to “see” you this week. Glad you conquered your fears. It was worth it for this recipe. What a winner. Great photos!

  23. I guess I haven’t grown up as much as you, Trevor – I just couldn’t bring myself to make this…

    Anyway, I wanted to thank you so much for your lovely comment on my blog – it means all the more coming from you since you are so talented.

    I was also thinking of you when I came across this British blog:

    I thought you’d enjoy! Have a great week!

  24. This looks beyond fantastic! I don’t think I’ve had mussels with chorizo, but I would love to try this 🙂

  25. Congrats on Foodbuzz top 9!

  26. Your fishing stories remind me of some childhood fishing adventures of my own (though substitute cheese and worms for the bait and lakes for the ocean).

    I agree with your comment on my blog, by the way – you really haven’t made this dish until you have someone making a truffle tart for your dessert. Take 2!

  27. Great reading and what a tale from childhood memory to adult longing. Very happy to see you back in FFwD especially a dish that you’ve waited for years to try cooking. Your version looks absolutely spot on and I do like how you described the fear for food poisoning a bit overrated. Yes, Pernod is calling your name! Add fennels too while you’re at it. 🙂

  28. Taking a break from the many questions from anonymous on one of my blog posts. First let me say that congrats on the top 9-that is a first that I know of out of the Dorie bake along group. Also, you have reminded me of that “to do” list of things to make-mine is up to about three lifetimes in length to complete.
    Glad you forged ahead even with the doubts, I stay away from trying stuff for the same reason.What if I accidentally miss a poisonous rhubarb leaf and baked it in the pie?
    Anyhow your dish does look great and you have eliminated my thoughts about bad mussels!

  29. Ok. This is a mystery. I know I left a message here last night. It was so ridiculously funny that I came back to hear your snarky retort. But the message isn’t here. I doubt you would edit me so I must have screwed up. The sad thing I don’t feel as funny tonight so I can’t muster the same bravado as last night… GREG

  30. Thank you for sharing that: your reminiscences of those years you spent hanging out by the piers, looking for mussels, drawn to them but simultaneously too intimidated to claim what you wanted for yourself. And now you’ve finally conquered that fear, taken some home and sampled deeply of the pleasure the can give (albeit assisted by, apparently, copious wine. But who hasn’t relied on a little liquid courage from time to time?).

    You fill me with pride. We should throw a parade.


  31. I nominated you for best recipe blog on theKitchen! Good luck! 🙂

  32. My boyfriend would love this.

  33. Lovely photos of one good looking plate of mussels!
    I have this recipe bookmarked to try and I will get to it eventually as I love those slippery little moules especially with the frites on the side;-)