Cringingly Delicious [Rioja Steamed Mussels with Caramelized Onions and Chorizo]

Remember when you were a kid and you used to sit at the adult table, looking on in disgust as your parents and their friends drank their smelly beer/wine, eating their odd looking food, and thinking to yourself “Ewwww, I will never eat or drink that stuff.”

That was me. I wouldn’ say I was picky, but every so often I would see or smell something that I wanted nothing to do with. Oysters, liver, kidneys, blood sausage, veal… those sorts of things. Things that typical hot-dog and chicken finger eating children are not exactly comfortable around. 

Two of those things in particular are oysters and mussels. I remember watching my dad eat a big bowl of mussels once, my eyes wide as he pried them open, loosening the tiny muscusy creature inside. I’m not sure I even knew they were living until much later in life. What did I think they were? I have no idea. I never thought about it long enough to ask the question. I just wrinkled my nose, made a gagging face to my sister and took another bite of my Kraft Dinner.

It wasn’t until recently that I gave some of my most feared foods a second glance. I’ve only been really adventuous food-wise in the past couple years. So as I sat at The Whalesbone Oyster House last year, staring directly into a selection of chef-selected oysters, my mouth was not exactly watering. But, much to my delight, they were no where near what I thought they would be. They weren’t as slimy as I thought, they tasted completely different than I had imagined, and I actually, gasp, enjoyed them! I guess this means I owe my dad apologies for years and years of turned up noses.

I figured recently, that if I liked oysters, how much could I really hate mussels? It was about time I gave them a shot. So I invited my best friend over for a dinner of food I didn’t know if I would like, from an ingredient I had never cooked. Obviously, I didn’t let her in on that information until she was already over with a glass of wine in her hand.

This recipes features mussels in a broth of caramelized onions, chorizo and a Spanish wine called Rioja. The chorizo and onions pack a punch of flavour on their own, but when the wine is added, it takes it somewhere completely different. And I strongly urge you have some crusty bread at the ready to sop up all the broth at the bottom of your bowl.

I should also mention that the mussels from T&T Superstore were delicious. If you’re looking for seafood in the Ottawa area, these guys are tops.  

Rioja Steamed Mussels with Caramelized Onions and Chorizo
adapted from Claire Robinson’s recipe.

Claire’s recipe calls to add the wine and mussels at the same time, but I wanted to be sure all the alcohol cooked off so you didn’t get hit with that smell or taste before anything else.

Note: while you’re cleaning the mussels, be sure to discard any that are already open. As well as any that haven’t opened in the cooking process.

2 large Chorizo links, about a pound
1 large or two medium Spanish onions, sliced or diced thin
Salt and pepper
2 lbs black mussels, cleaned and bearded
1 bottle Rioja (LCBO carries a few nice ones)
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, loosely chopped

Remove the chorizo from the casings and add to a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Cook until the fat has rendered and the meat is browned, about 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the onions and let cook, stirring occasionally, until they are deep golden brown. About 10-15 minutes. Add the chorizo back to the pan and pour in the bottle of wine. Bring to a boil and let it cook for a minute or two or until the alcohol taste/smell has disappeared. Add the mussels, cover with a lid and cook until the mussels have opened, 4-5 minutes.

Serve in a big bowl, topped with parlsey and served with a hunk of bread.

And just you try not to love them. I dare you.

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