This is a recipe that has been on my mind for years, yes years. I first, and only, ate them at Casa Flores here in El Puerto. Sadly, that restaurant has since shut down. Sad. At the time, I thought they were the best thing I had ever eaten. Finally, I got around to making them and discovered that they are pretty time consuming! Like not a quick appetizer. I adapted this recipe from Karlos Arguinano and is just downright delicious. Worth the time and effort. Even if you think you don't like seafood, you just might love these.
If you happen to love creamy sauces plus seafood plus crispy fried food, then this will be a winner. It has all the elements that fit that bill and you just can't go wrong. Okay, so like I said before, these do take a bit of time. Cleaning the mussels first of all takes a wee bit of time and effort. Then you have to make the sauce, the vegetable mixture, stuff the mussels, coat them and then finally cook them! I am exhausted just thinking about it...eek. All that being said, sometimes it is nice to take the time to make nice food. These can be completely made in advance, refrigerated and then cooked just before serving. When I made them, I prepared them in the morning and cooked them hours later and they were perfect.
If you are unsure about mussels and how to clean and prepare them, don't fret. It isn't as difficult as you may think. Just takes a bit of time.
Clean the mussels by filling up your sink with cold water and dumping them all in. Pick up each one and give it a gentle scrub. If you notice any mussels that are cracked or open, discard them.
Now you have to debeard the mussels. Most mussels will contain a string like seaweed that is in the crack of the mussel. All you have to do is pull it off. Do so by pulling towards the bottom of the shell and it will come off quickly. Repeat this for all the mussels. You many notice that they don't all have beards and that is fine. Once you have done this for all the mussels give the another rinse in cold water keep them in a cold water bath until you are ready to cook them.
Okay, I hope all that makes sense.
Something else I would like to point out, this appetizer is best served hot. And by best, I mean they aren't great after they have been sitting around for a while. The sauce will harden and it will be quite gummy which isn't nice. However, when served straight out of the pan, these are creamy, decadent and worth every bite.
These would make a great appetizer for Valentine's Day. Remember, they can can be totally be prepared in advance and cooked just before serving. The frying only takes minutes, so it won't keep you at the stove too long.
Bechamel Stuffed Mussels
Serves 4 - 6 / Prep time: 1 hour / Cook time: 50 minutes
For the mussels:
2 lbs/1 kg fresh mussels
1 Small green pepper, finely diced
1 Onion, finely diced
1 Tomato, finely diced
3 Garlic cloves, crushed
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Cup/240 ml white wine
1 Bay leaf
A few stalks of fresh parsley
3/4 Cup/95 grams Flour
1 Cup/90 grams Fine bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten
2 Tablespoons fresh chopped parsley, for garnish
Extra olive oil for frying
For the bechamel
3 Cups/735 ml milk
2/3 Cup/80 grams flour
2/3 Cup/70 grams butter
Clean the mussels and discard any mussels that are damaged or open. In a large boiler set over high heat, add the wine, bay leaf and parsley stalks. Bring to a boil and add the mussels and cover. Leave until all the mussels have opened. This will take about 5 minutes. Discard any mussels that have not opened.
Remove the mussels from the liquor and discard the liquor. Take the mussels out of the shells, reserving the shells. Roughly chop up the mussels and set them aside.
In a large skillet set over medium high heat, add a tablespoon of olive oil, onion, green pepper and garlic. Stir well and cook for about 5 minutes until they become soft. Add the tomato and continue to cook for about 5 more minutes until all vegetables are cooked and soft. Add the chopped mussels, season with salt and pepper. Cook for a further few minutes and remove from heat.
Make the bechamel by setting a saucepan over medium to high heat. Add the butter until melted. Add all the flour at once and stir quickly to incorporate until you have a very thick paste. Gradually start to whisk in your milk. Whisk as you pour in the milk. Continue doing so until you have a thick sauce. This will take about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Pour sauce into your vegetable mussel mixture. Return to a low heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Sauce will continue to thicken. Remove from heat and leave to cool.
With a teaspoon, fill each mussel shell with the mixture. Dip it into flour, the beaten egg and the bread crumbs. Repeat until you have used all your mixture.
In a deep sided skillet, add about 2 inches of olive oil and heat it over medium high heat. Add the mussels shell side down and cook for about a minute then turn them over and cook until they are golden brown and crispy. This will take about 2 - 3 minutes longer. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Repeat for all mussels.
Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve straight away.
Click the downloadable link below to print recipe!
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