Earlier last week, I went to get some shell-on shrimp to try a pasta recipe I had in mind. I found myself over at Whole Foods, since the markets in my neighborhood are only open until the early evening, around 6PM or so.
While scouring the seafood section for the shrimp I wanted, I saw that mussels were $5 per pound. People joke about Whole Foods being “Whole Paycheck Market”, but a pound is a decent amount of mussels for a price that wouldn’t burn a hole in my wallet. I love seafood, so I decided I wanted to get some mussels from Whole Foods soon and make something unique with them.
A couple nights later, I found inspiration in an episode of Iron Chef America (Flay vs Voltaggio, Battle Iberico). Bobby Flay made a walnut romesco sauce to serve as part of a trio with the iberico ham, and it sounded (and looked, obviously) delicious. Curious to what this mysterious sauce was, I looked it up and became determined to try it out. Romesco sauce is a Spanish sauce made with red peppers and almonds that’s commonly used with fish, but is eaten with a lot of different things like grilled spring onions, sandwiches, and corn. After researching a bunch of sites (Chowhound, Serious Eats, Food Network, etc), I combined a bunch of bits and pieces from various recipes to come up with the romesco sauce recipe listed below. Because most the recipes I found included some form of tomato in their sauce blend, I figured this was the sauce that would be perfect for the mussels I had seen at Whole Foods earlier this week. Since romesco sauce is pretty thick by itself, I added a little broth and some white wine added to make the sauce thin enough to coat the mussels.
This recipe is similar to how a cioppino would taste, except this would be smokier and sweeter due to the roasted peppers and smoked paprika. If you make the romesco beforehand on the weekend, you could whip up this recipe during the weekday if you’re feeling the need for a fancier meal in the middle of the week because it really is super quick and simple. Just want the recipe? Click here to make the jump!
A couple notes about this recipe. I know I said it could be a really quick meal, BUT that’s only if you make the sauce ahead of time. Most of the time spent in this recipe is inactive time where you don’t do anything but sit and wait. Waiting for something to finish roasting, waiting for flavors to meld, waiting for things to boil… Once that’s all done though, putting together the actual dish is rather simple.
You’ll need a food processor for this recipe! If you don’t already have a food processor, I would highly recommend getting one because it’s a really versatile kitchen gadget that you’ll end up using a lot (so invest in a good one!). Technically, you COULD make this recipe without one–you could go old-school and bring out the mortar and pestle, but do you really want to spend hours smashing together peppers, garlic, and almonds? Probably not.
I’m fully aware that last picture looks like baby food. I assure you, it’s delicious baby food. Romesco tastes better if you let it sit a couple hours before using, but using immediately is fine too. I think I left mine sitting for just an hour before using it, and it was still insanely flavorful and delicious.
Last point! When you steam these little guys, use a lid to cover up your pan. This is important because that steam action is what’s going to properly cook the mussels. You’ll know that they’re done when they open up. Give it maybe an extra minute or so afterwards to make sure the shrimp are cooked through, but don’t leave the mussels in any longer than that or they’ll get rubbery.
Mussels with Romesco Sauce
- 1/2 of a large tomato, cut into thirds
- 1 large red bell pepper, quartered and seeded
- 2 medium stalks of green garlic (or 1 large clove of garlic), cut into 4 pieces
- 1/4 cup of almonds, toasted
- 1 slice of a crusty bread (2 slices if small, like slices of a baguette), toasted
- 1/2 of a large ancho chile pod, seeded
- 1 tsp of red wine vinegar
- 3/4 tsp smoked paprika
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 4-5 ancho chile water (reserved from soaking the chile)
- 1 1/2 cup water
- 1 small stalk of green garlic (or a small garlic clove)
- handful of mushroom stems (4-5 stems, or 2-3 button mushrooms)
- 1 bay leaf
- pinch of salt
For Assembling the Dish:
- 2/3 cup of romesco sauce
- 1/2 cup of vegetable broth or seafood broth
- 1/4 cup of white wine (I used a Two Buck Chuck chardonnay)
- 1 tbsp of tomato paste
- 1 lb of mussels
- 1/2 lb of shrimp, deveined and peeled with tails on
- 1 tbsp of Italian parsley, chopped
- baguette, sliced and toasted
- Make your romesco sauce first! Preheat your over to 400F. Place your tomato wedges, quartered bell peppers, and green garlic segments onto a baking sheet. Drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil on the veggies, throw on a pinch of salt, and roast for 25-30 minutes, until slightly charred. If your peppers aren’t charred by the end of this time and they’re already soft, go ahead and broil them quickly for 2-3 minutes. Be careful if you broil though so you don’t dry out and burn the green garlic.
- While your vegetables are roasting, let’s do more prep! Take half of an ancho chile pod and de-seed it. Place it in a bowl and cover it with hot water and set aside to let it soak for at least 20 minutes.
- Toast your almonds in a pan for about 5 minutes on a medium heat. Stir often so your almonds won’t burn. Note that the almonds will taste “soft” and chewy when they’re still hot, but they’ll get nice and crunchy once they’re cooled, so be careful not to over-toast and burn them! Set aside once you’ve got the almonds nice and toasty.
- Toast your bread slices and cut into cubes. Set aside.
- After your vegetables are done roasting, let them cool for about 5 minutes. Then peel off the skin of the tomato wedges. Blending these will leave tiny skin pieces that get stuck in your teeth. Add the wedges into the food processor.
- Your ancho chile should be nice and soft now. Just chop it up and toss into your food processor with the peppers, tomato, and garlic. Don’t toss the water though! We’ll need that soon.
- Add everything else—toasted almonds, bread cubes, red wine vinegar, smoked paprika, salt, red pepper flakes, and 2 tbsp of ancho chile water. Blend until smooth. As needed, add 1 tbsp of water at a time until you get a nice smooth paste. Set this aside when you’re done.
- Time to clean your seafood! For the mussels, scrub the shells and remove the “beard”. Mussels have this little fringe-like thing that runs along the opening of their shells. If you need detailed instructions for this, I highly recommend checking out Serious Eats’ guide here. For shrimp, remove the shells and devein them but keep the tails on. Don’t toss the shells though! They can be used in your seafood broth.
- If you’re using a pre-made broth, you can skip this step. Personally, I like making my own because I can control the flavors a little more. To make this quick broth for your sauce, simmer 2-3 mushrooms (I just had mushrooms stems that I had saved in the freezer) with a stalk of green garlic, a bay leaf, and a pinch of salt. Toss in the shrimp shells if you have any (I had pre-shelled shrimp so I did not). Simmer for about 20 minutes, then set aside.
- Heat 2/3 cup of romesco sauce to a large sauté pan that has a lid (but don’t put the lid on yet), on medium high. Add in your broth, white wine, and tomato paste and stir to combine.
- Wait until your sauce starts to simmer, then add your seafood to the sauce and cover the pan with a lid. Let sauce continue to bubble until the mussels steam open.
- Serve in a wide shallow bowl or dish that allows you to scoop up the sauce your toasted slices of bread. Enjoy! 🙂
Questions? Concerns? Think something I did was weird? Feel free to write me a message below in the comments!