This is our favorite mussel dish. I guess we call it Portuguese because it mixes mussels, chorizo (or linguiça) and cilantro and this is thought of as a Portuguese combination. We usually serve it with pasta although it’s good on its own and the sauce even without the mussels is so delicious that we’ve been known to serve it with pasta when no mussels are available. Here in France we get moules de Bouchot in the summer – they are small but the shells are completely filled so that a pound or two goes a long way. Make sure your mussels are fresh – no cracked or broken shells nor ones that don’t close up when you tap them. We steam the mussels separately in white or rosé wine and then either shell them and add them to the sauce or, better still, mix the sauce with the pasta and bring the steamed pot of mussels to the table so that your guests can shell them themselves and add them to their bowl of pasta. It seems a pity to cook the mussels in the delicious sauce – too much of it is lost to the shells. Either way, this dish is a winner.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped fine
1/2 red pepper, sliced thinly into 1″ pieces
1 large clove garlic, chopped fine
2 oz. dried chorizo, preferably hot, sliced into 1/4″ rounds
2-3 ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped, or 1-14 oz. can, chopped
1/2 cup white or rosé wine
2 lbs. mussels
Pinch of cayenne or piment d’Espelette
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
Cook the onion in the olive oil over low heat in a heavy-bottomed frying pan, five minutes. Add the sliced pepper and continue cooking another 10 minutes. Add the garlic, chorizo, and tomatoes and cook until the sauce has thickened and reduced, about 15 minutes. If it gets too dry, add a little water or wine. If the chorizo is not hot, you will want to add a good pinch of cayenne or piment d’Espelette – the sauce should be spicy.
Meanwhile, debeard the mussels (if you need to) and steam them until they just open, 3-4 minutes. If they are very large mussels, they may take longer. Strain the liquid into the tomato sauce and let it bubble and reduce for a few minutes.
If you are going to serve the mussels with pasta (spaghetti or linguine are our favorites with this dish), time the cookingso that it’s ready at the same time as the mussels. Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce, mixing it in well, then adding the chopped cilantro. Check for salt – mussel liquid can be salty, so I don’t add salt until after the mussel liquid is mixed in. Serve the pasta in individual bowls, either topping each bowl with 1/4 of the mussels (shelled or not) or else bring the mussels to the table in the pot they cooked in and let the diners shell their own as they go, adding them to their bowl.