During our travels through Spain, on many nights we wouldn’t sit down in a restaurant to have dinner, but instead go from tapas bar to tapas bar to sample the tapas with a nice glass of wine. This is not only fun and delicious, but also quite cheap, as in many places the tapas and glasses of wine are about 2 euros each (in some cases we even got a free tapa with a 2 euro glass of very decent wine). One type of tapas that is very popular in the region of Galicia that we visited, is tigres, also known as mejillones rellenos. Mussel shells are stuffed with a thick sauce made of mussels, and then breaded and deep-fried. In most cases not a lot of mussel meat is used to make the filling and the flavor is quite light, to keep the prices as low as they are.
When I came home I decided to make a ‘deluxe’ version with a lot of mussel meat and a stronger flavor. Instead of deep frying, I oped to put them under the broiler to keep things light. The result was amazingly delicious. We couldn’t stop eating them. Especially with the accompanying wine.
1 kilo (2.2 lbs) live mussels (The mussels I used were quite small. It is less work to fill them if you use bigger mussels.)
120 ml (1/2 cup) dry white wine
1 onion, minced
1 tsp hot paprika (or 1 tsp sweet paprika plus cayenne pepper to taste)
1 Tbsp minced flat leaf parsley
2 Tbsp olive oil
100 grams (2/3 cup) flour
Clean a kilo of mussels well, and discard any that aren’t closed. Put them in a pan, and add 120 ml of dry white wine.
Cover the pan and cook over high heat…
…until the mussels have opened. Turned off the heat when that happens. Do not cook the mussels longer than necessary, as that will make them tough.
Drain the mussels, reserving the liquid.
Filter the liquid with moistened kitchen paper to remove all sand and grit.
Take the mussels out of their shells, and gently separate the halves. Discard the shell halves with a muscle, and reserve the clean ones.
You should end up with about 200 grams (7 oz) of mussel meat and about 350 ml (1 1/2 cups) of liquid.
Chop the mussel meat.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan. Add a minced onion, and stir over medium heat until the onion starts to color, about 5 minutes.
Add 100 grams of flour…
…and stir over low heat until the roux has come together.
Add the reserved mussel liquid.
Whisk energetically over low heat…
…until there are no more lumps and the sauce has thickened. Turn off the heat.
Add the chopped mussel meat and a tablespoon of parsley.
Add a teaspoon of hot paprika.
Stir to incorporate. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Allow the sauce to cool and thicken.
Fill mussel shells with the sauce, and cover the tops with dry breadcrumbs, gently shaking off any excess.
Arrange them on a baking sheet.
Put them under the broiler until golden, which will happen in a matter of minutes. Watch them carefully so they won’t burn.
Serve at once. In tapas bars in Spain they are reheated in the microwave.
In Galicia you’d drink a glass of Albariño from Rias Baixas or a glass of Godello with this, and those would be good choices. However, I had just bought a bottle of Lugana from Italy that I wanted to try, and so that is what we had with the tigres. I am glad that we did, because they were delicious together.
Lugana is a DOC on the soutern shores of Lake Garda in Lombardia. The wine has to be made from 100% Trebbiano di Lugana, also called Turbania, Turbanio, or Trebbiano di Soave. DNA research has proven that this is actually the same grape variety as Verdicchio, known from Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi in Marche. It is not the same as Trebbiano di Toscana, which is a more boring variety that is called Ugni Blanc in France.
Cà Maiol Lugana Molin 2015, retails in Italy for 11 euros, won tre bicchieri from Gambero Rosso
- 100% Trebbiano di Lugana (Verdicchio), 48 hours skin contact, 13% ABV
- Color: pale yellow
- Nose: fruity, pear
- Taste: juicy, fresh, and fruity, well balanced
- Conclusion: great drinkability and not as simple as it may seem initially, ****
The combination with the mussels was wonderful, ****1/2. The wine became more complex together with the mussels. The wine pairing worked as harmony as we can see from the flavor factors:
- The mouthfeel of the mussels is coating because of the bechamel consistency of the sauce, and the wine is coating as well because it is so juicy with very gentle acidity
- Flavor intensity: both the dish and the wine have a medium-high flavor intensity
- Type of flavor: both the dish and the wine have mostly ripe tones with some fresh thrown in for added complexity (like the parsley in the mussel filling)
- Complexity: both the dish and the wine have medium complexity with multiple layers
This orange almond cake has a wonderful flavor and is very moist because it is drenched in freshly squeezed orange juice.