I know you’ve been waiting for some new recipes to appear on this site and with me just coming back from a wonderful (albeit brief) Spring visit to Greece, I bring you a quick and easy mussels dish that will take you to a Greek taverna and keep me at bay until my proper vacation to Greece in August.
I went to Greece to partake in the 6th Sani Gourmet Festival in Halkidiki then I spent the rest of my days with family and friends in nearby Thessaloniki. Mussels are all most menus of seafood and fish tavernas in Thessaloniki or any taverna that’s in the nearby vacation area of Halkidiki and eastern Macedonia and Thrace. The mussels are abundant, they are fresh, they are delicious, they are healthy for you and…affordable.
Here in Canada, we are blessed to also have a sustainable source of mussels from the Maritime provinces and I’m able to recreate my favourite mussels dishes from Greece. The key to any good mussels dish is to use fresh mussels. Frozen mussels just don’t cut it here (sorry New Zealand) and frankly I’d rather just eat something else if fresh mussels aren’t available. When fresh mussels are cooked, they release their liqueur (or juices). This liqueur is the basis for your delicious sauce that will meld with whatever other flavourings you give it. Think of cooking with water and not stock – that’s how drastic the difference would be.
This dish has an anise accent with the presence of Ouzo. Ouzo is an aperatif that’s enjoyed throughout Greece and Greeks will often sip it on ice or with water along seafood and mezedes (appetizers). There’s some wine to mellow the anise, some Boukovo for a little heat and some lemon zest to brighten the flavours and dried Greek oregano to offer some earthyness to the dish. The last touches are some fresh parsley to balance the garlic and wedges of lemon for those that like a little more citrus in the dish.
Mussels With Ouzo (Μυδια Ουζατα)
(serves 4 generously)
1 kg. fresh mussels, scrubbed & de-bearded
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
4-5 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup Ouzo (Greek anise-flavoured spirit)
1 tsp. Boukovo (dried chilli flakes)
zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup heavy cream (or evaporated milk)
1 tsp. dried Greek oregano
1/4 chopped fresh parsley
lemon wedges for garnish
- Rinse your mussels under cold water and if any mussels are cracked or shells broken – discard. Scrub the shells and remove the beards. If you encounter any open mussels, tap them and if the close then they are still alive. Otherwise discard those mussels as well. Rinse one more time and place in your fridge for up to a day or until you’re ready to cook them.
- Thirty minutes before you are going to cook your mussels, place them in a bowl of water and sprinkle some flour or cornmeal over them. Any remaining sand that the mussels discard/spit will cling to the flour and sink to the bottom of the bowl. Rinse again.
- In a large pot over medium heat, add your olive oil, onions and garlic and stir to coat and cook for about 5 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Turn the heat up to high, add the mussels, wine and Ouzo and cover. Allow the mussels to cook for about 6-7 minutes or until they open (shake the pot a few times to help open the mussels on the bottom).
- Once the mussels are opened, add the Boukovo (chilli flakes), lemon zest, cream, oregano and parsley and stir in with a slotted spoon. Remove any un-opened mussels and pour the remainder into a large serving bowl along with some crusty homemade bread, wedges of lemon. Serve with Ouzo or Tsipouro or a try a Kikones Maron white from Domaine Kikones in Thrace.
. All rights reserved.