Sunday, March 7, 2010


I go into the village three mornings a week to work out at the local gym. I’m not becoming musclebound, by any stretch, just desperately trying to keep toned.

Afterwards, I head for a café in the plaza for a café con leche, strong espresso coffee with milk. The café is sort of like my living room—I sit by the window, read the local (Málaga) newspaper and keep an eye on comings and goings. Then I check the mail at the post office and stop at the market for fresh fruit and veg, meat, eggs, fish. 

The other day, a recipe in the newspaper for a mussel gratin with spinach caught my eye. I’ve got lots of spinach in the garden, so that became my dinner plan. No pumping iron to get this kind of mussel! I bought the mussels at the market and headed home. But, then it started pouring rain—and never let up all day. I couldn’t go pick the spinach without getting drenched, so I looked for another mussel recipe in one of my cookbooks, MY KITCHEN IN SPAIN (yes, that’s the title of the cookbook as well as the blog), and came up with a Galician mussel and potato stew.

Most mussels come from Galicia in northwest Spain, where they are “farmed” on flats anchored in the Atlantic surf.  They are plump and meaty, but do require considerable scraping and cleaning.

First, I steamed open the mussels and removed the shells. The potatoes cooked in a sofrito with white wine until tender, then the mussels were added at the finish. A pleasing rainy-day supper with, of course, a Galician white Albariño wine from the Rias Baixas district. (Albariño is the grape varietal; rias are estuaries on the Atlantic coast. The Albariño vineyards reach nearly to the shores of the estuaries.)

Next time, I think I’ll add chopped spinach to the potatoes as well. It won’t be traditional Galician style, but I think very good.

Galician Mussel and Potato Stew
Guiso de Mejillones a la Gallega

Pimentón is Spanish sweet paprika. In this case, it is not smoked paprika. If you like, add a pinch of red pepper flakes or cayenne as well. Salt may not be needed, as the mussel broth is fairly salty.

Serves 4.

4 pounds fresh mussels, scrubbed
2 bay leaves 
1 cup water
1/3 cup olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 small green pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 ounces chorizo sausage, chopped (optional)
3 pounds potatoes, peeled and sliced
1/3 cup white wine
2 teaspoons pimentón (paprika)
pinch of thyme
freshly ground black pepper
salt, if necessary
chopped parsley

Put the mussels in a pot with the bay leaves and water. Cover and place on a high heat. Shake the pot several times, until the mussel shells have opened. Remove from heat. Drain them, saving the liquid. When mussels are cool enough to handle, remove mussels from shells and discard shells.

Heat the oil in a cazuela or skillet and sauté the onion, pepper, garlic and sausage, if using, until onion is softened. Add the potatoes, wine, pimentón, thyme and pepper.

Strain the mussel broth through a fine sieve and add 1 cup of it to the potatoes. Cook until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Add the mussels and reheat.

Let rest 5 minutes. Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley.

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