Tender mussels swim in a white wine tomato broth with garlic, shallots, prosciutto, and herbs. Perfect for date night or a dinner party, Spicy Mussels Provençal are similar to a bouillabaisse style dish with less broth and a little more spice. Oh, and pasta.
For our first wedding anniversary we went to Niagara, NY. S doesn’t have a passport to be able to cross the border into the Canadian side, but that was fine for us. There is plenty to do in Niagara, NY!
We did some antiquing, some site seeing, and spent some quality time together. Not that we don’t spend time together all the time. We don’t have kids and pretty much few friends to do things with. So, we spend quite a lot of time together.
And I’m fine with that! I’m not a very social person.
On that trip we went to a small restaurant called Wine on Third. I truly think it was the perfect place to have our first anniversary dinner. The food was awesome. The service was excellent. And we had a great meal start to finish. EVERYTHING was amazing.
However, ever since that meal, I’ve been dying to recreate the mussels appetizer we had that night. The mussels were in a tomato sauce that was oh so delicious. There was just the right amount of spiciness to the sauce. But there wasn’t enough bread to sop up all the sauce.
This spicy mussels Provençal recipe isn’t exactly a recreation recipe for that dish. The sauce isn’t a tomato or marinara style sauce. It is a very loose sauce made from the cooked down wine and the juices from the mussels. There’s the chunky tomatoes, garlic, and shallots swimming with the herbs and spices. But it’s not a thick tomato sauce.
But, the spiciness of this recipe is very similar to the mussels appetizer we had in Niagara. There is enough heat that you feel it, but not so much that you can’t taste the dish. That is what has tripped me up every time I’ve tried to recreate that delicious appetizer.
Mussels aren’t something you can buy ahead of time. I wouldn’t buy them more than a day ahead. They should be alive, thriving, and fresh when you bring them home. Unless you keep them packed on ice, buy them the day of or the day before.
I thought for sure I would be able to find them easily. But that wasn’t exactly the case. I’m lucky to live in an area that has quite a few grocery stores within about 5 to 10 minutes of me. Two of which are international grocery stores
That day, I headed to the grocery store I thought would have them. I grabbed the cubed prosciutto, some shallots, and some bread. When I got to the fish counter, they didn’t have any mussels out. So, I asked if they had any. Nope. All out!
I had two solid options to get some mussels before heading across town to the other 6 grocery stores. Luckily, it only took one more stop to get 2 bags of mussels. I only needed one bag. The bag looked so small. They don’t look like 1 pound of mussels will be enough. But we had PLENTY left over.
So, if you’re making this spicy mussels Provençal for 2 to 4 people only get one bag.
Tips to cleaning your mussels:
- If the shell is open, tap it on the counter or with another mussels to see if it closes. If it doesn’t close, then discard it.
- Discard any cracked or smashed mussels.
- Store them in the fridge covered with ice until ready to use.
- Soak the mussels in water 15 minutes before cooking. This will prompt the mussels to breathe in the clean water and “exhale” the sandy or muddy particles in their shells.
- Pull the beard (stringy looking bits hanging out of the shell) toward the valve to get them to come off easier.
- Grab a strong bristled brush and give them a good scrub to make sure the shells are clean.
- Rinse them with cold water and place on a towel to dry until you’re ready to cook them.
It probably took me about 30 minutes to clean and de-beard both bags of mussels. I’m thankful these appeared to be farm raised. They were super clean with very few beards to remove. I did have to scrub quite a bit of scum off the shells.
All that stuff on the outside of the shell becomes part of your meal. So you want to make sure those things are as clean as you can possibly get them. Grab a stiff brush or even one of those green scrubbies to clean them off. They need to be squeaky clean before you cook them.
There are a few different kinds of mussels. But the most common we have around here are the blue mussels which actually have black shells. Go figure! I guess there’s a blue spot on or near the hinge. I really have no idea why they’re called blue mussels.
There are New Zealand green lipped mussels. Then there’s brown mussels from parts of Europe, Africa, and South America. Asia has it’s own green mussels. Finally, there’s Prince Edward Island mussels. These are also blue mussels but super famous. PEI produced 41 million pounds of mussels last year alone. That’s insane.
You can smoke, boil, steam, roast, barbecue, and fry mussels including deep fry them. I’ve tried smoked in a tin. Ew. I haven’t boiled them. We have only steamed our mussels. I might have to try the roasted and fried versions. Those sound interesting.
These spicy mussels Provençal are more like steamed. You pile the mussels in on top of the liquid that is boiling at the time. Then you close the lid and let them steam. I think that’s the most common method for cooking mussels; steaming them.
I like steaming them because of all the juices they release!! They combine with the garlic, shallots, herbs, tomatoes, and wine to make for a delicious sauce for the pasta. Of course, you could skip the pasta and just serve them with bread. That would be good, too.
Since I have issues with some seafood, I like to have something to go along with the seafood.
Yes. I have issues with seafood. As much as I like mussels, sometimes there’s sand and grit in them. If you don’t clean them right and make sure they have released that stuff in the cleaning process it could lead to an unpleasant experience. So, make sure you follow the cleaning steps.
These were farm raised so they were pretty clean. I ate all of the mussels I put in my bowl without any issues. They were so tender, sweet, and delicious combined with all the other flavors in this dish. We have plenty of the leftover sauce, too. So I see myself making a delicious appetizer or simple meal with the leftover spicy mussels Provençal sauce and some bread.
I’m drooling. Are you drooling?
Just look at that bowl of goodness!! You can see the cubes or proscuitto, tomatoes, shallots, and herbs. All swimming in the bowl with the pasta and mussels. See what I mean when I say it will make for a great date night meal? And you can easily serve this up for a dinner party, too! It has that kind of table presence.
This week we’re sharing delicious Seafood Recipes to help you get through Lent or Fish Fridays. Yes, I know this isn’t fish, but it’s not meat per se. Then there’s you pescatarians out there! I’m sure you’ll enjoy some of these recipes, too.
- 2 pounds mussels, cleaned
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 6 ounces diced pancetta
- 1/2 cup chopped shallots
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 28 ounces whole tomatoes
- Rinse and clean the mussels. Discard any that do not close when rinsed. Keep refrigerated until it’s time to add them to the pot.
- Drain the tomatoes and save the juice for another use. Coarsely chop the tomatoes and set aside.
- Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sauté the pancetta in olive oil until crispy.
- Stir in the shallots, garlic, red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant.
- Stir in the tomato paste and cook until slightly darker in color.
- Add the tomatoes and wine and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to a simmer and add the mussels. Cover the pot and simmer 5 to 7 minutes or until the mussels are opened. Discard any that do not open.
- Serve with pasta and crusty bread.
- Abalone Po’ Boy by Culinary Adventures with Camilla
- Deviled Breadcrumb Fish with Bacon, Leeks, and Tomatoes by Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks
- Salmon Croquettes by Cindy’s Recipes and Writings
- Shrimp Etouffee by A Day in the Life on the Farm
- Creamy Shrimp Piccata by Sweet Beginnings
- Spicy Mussels Provençal by A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventures