People living along Spain’s rugged northern coast have gathered shellfish, well, forever, and mussels are one of their most prominent harvests. Naturally, in common with food lovers everywhere, Galicians have developed hundreds of delicious ways to highlight – and to enjoy – local products. One of the most tempting of these is today’s submission, Mussels in Sailor’s Sauce.
Not surprisingly, the sauce takes its name from the flavorful broth enriching the daily catch. While the preparation no doubt works well with all manner of fish, both separately and in combination, it has a special affinity for mussels’ briny muskiness. Leafing through an old issue of Food & Wine, from September 2004, located a recipe that caught the eye and sparked anticipation.
Though the sauce boasts a host of ingredients, including the Spanish mainstay, saffron, it draws its character from tomatoes and garlic. Those, and a generous amount of good white wine, in this case Albariño, give the fish, and the sauce in which it swims, a spirited kick.
It also makes for a broth that works splendidly with a crusty loaf of bread, as pictured above. Especially when the shellfish releases some of its essence, imparting the broth with a depth that’s perfect for sopping up with bread. It’s a rich nectar you could’ve seen too, were it not for the regrettable decision to use a black dish for service.
While Mussels in Sailor’s Sauce may be a marine delicacy to land-based diners, to working Galicians it’s merely a result of the day’s harvest. What a savory way to take work home.
Mussels in Sailor’s Sauce
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 small onion, chopped (*1)
- 2 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 jalapeño, finely chopped
- 1 large tomato, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- large pinch of saffron, lightly crumbled
- 1/2 teaspoon flour
- 1/2 cup dry white wine (*2)
- 2 pounds mussels
- 1/2 cup bottled clam juice
- 2 tablespoons finely-chopped parsley
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
In a large saucepan over a medium-high flame, heat the olive oil until it shimmers. Add the onions, garlic and jalapeño and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 3 minutes
Add the tomato, oregano and saffron and cook for a minute, stirring. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir it in.
Stir in the wine and the mussels and cover the pot for a minute. Add the parsley, lemon juice and clam juice and increase the heat to high. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mussels open, about 5 minutes.
Divide the mussels into individual portions and serve with crusty bread
1 – A large shallot work even better.
2 – I chose Albariño. It’s Spanish, which fits this dish nicely and, much more importantly, it pairs particularly well with shellfish.