The escabeche technique is one of the most traditional in Spanish gastronomy. Usually made up of olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt, bay leaf and pepper, with the possible addition of herbs such as oregano and thyme, or spices such as pimentón.
Throughout Spain you can purchase mejillones in escabeche in tin cans.
My boys and I absolutely adore them. When visiting Spain, one of the first stops we make is the corner grocer to stock up on these tasty and nourishing morsels. In the states I usually stop by a Mexican or Bosnian grocer as they carry them imported from Spain.
As much as we love the tin variety, really… there is nothing like cooking with fresh mussels.
We tend to overlook this shellfish in the United States, however, they are sweet and tender filled with protein, iron and rich Omega 3 fatty acids. They are so versatile to cook with that as long as you don’t overcook them, you can add them in just about anything.
During the Spring time I can find wild caught, blue mussels, locally. Throughout the rest of the year I purchase them farmed from Costco.
As with related species – scallops, oysters and clams – farming methods for mussels are environmentally sound. Mussels do not rely on fishmeal or fish oil as part of their diet. Diseases are rare, so antibiotics and chemicals aren’t necessary, and the farming operation often benefits the surrounding marine habitat.
They are one of the cheapest shellfish you can find that gives you the most nourishment for your buck. In other words, frugal.
My favorite way of preparing them is en escabeche or simply steamed with salt and lemon juice. If shellfish aren’t a regular part of your family’s diet, I encourage you to give them a try. Open up your palates and try something new.
Mejillones En Escabeche
- 1-2lbs fresh mussels
- 1/2 cup of white wine
- 4 cloves garlic, diced
- 2-3 bay leaves
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 tsp Spanish paprika (dulce)
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- Salt and Pepper
1. If using fresh mussels, soak in water for 1-2 hours to remove any grit. I usually sprinkle a bit of flour on top to help speed the process.
2. Heat 1/2 cup of wine in a skillet. Add the mussels removing them, into a separate bowl, as they open. This process takes 5 to 10 minutes. Any longer and they can get tough and chewy.
3. Remove the mussel meat from the shell into a bowl and set aside.
4. Wipe clean the skillet and heat 1/2 cup of olive oil. Add the garlic and saute for 2-3 minutes or slightly browned.
5. Bring the heat down to low and add the bay leaves and allow to simmer for a few minutes stirring constantly.
6. Add the paprika, dash of salt, pepper and the red wine vinegar. Simmer for 5 minutes.
7. Allow the sauce to cool for a few minutes and pour over the mussels.
8. Allow the flavors to meld for at least 2 hours or preferably overnight before serving.
9. Since the sauce is a mixture of olive oil and vinegar, as long as the mussels are submerged under the liquid, they will preserve in the refrigerator for 2 weeks or even left out in room temperature for a few days. The longer they have to incorporate flavors the better they taste.