After coming home from a trip, I like to make a dish that reminds me of the place I visited, just so I can keep the vacation buzz lasting months after my return.
So when I recently finished processing the 2,000 images I took from my recent Australian adventure, I felt I wanted more to remember my experience. So that’s when I decided to make chili pickled mussels.
Sydney was the first place I’d seen pickled mussels. I love mussels, but have always eaten them fresh and cooked the French way in broth. But apparently pickled mussels are pretty common in Australia because I saw them on various restaurant menus in my later stops in Perth and Melbourne, and even saw them at the local delis, especially chili pickled mussels.
It’s probably because Australians have such easy access to plentiful fresh mussels that they have to think of other ways to keep them. While I’m still a fan of mussels in broth, the pickled version is a nice way to keep mussels to enjoy all week, especially if you’re living alone and can’t eat a whole bag of mussels in one sitting.
Chili pickled mussels just add a bit of a kick, and I had a bunch of Thai chilies to use. In Australia, chili mussels are often a bar snack or appetizer, so for me I paired it with a smashed fava bean bruschetta to provide some richness from the bean paste to complement the vinegary mussels. (If you don’t like fava beans, you can use any other beans that are in season, such as English peas.)
What would you eat with chili pickled mussels?
Chili Pickled Mussels
Makes four servings
1 lb. bag of fresh live mussels
1 cup mussel juice or water
½ cup distilled white vinegar
¼ cup sugar
2 or 3 Thai chilies, seeds removed and diced finely
Prep your mussels by scrubbing the shells and removing the “beard” that might be sticking out. You can cook the mussels either by steaming them or quickly sautéing them with some water. You basically want to cook the mussels so they pop open. The juices you’ll keep to use as part of the pickling juice.
I quickly sautéed my mussels by warming a pot over the stove top on medium high, and then adding the mussels when the pot was hot. The mussels will sizzle (if your pot is indeed hot) and then add a cup of water or broth. Cover the pot for about 5 minutes until the mussels pop open. (Do not eat any mussels that won’t open.)
Remove the mussels and place in bowl to cool. Reserve the mussel juice (about 1 cup) from the pot by pouring it through a sieve to avoid any grit from the mussels.
When the mussels are cool, remove the meat from the shell. Discard the shells.
In a bowl, blend the mussel juice, white vinegar, sugar, and finely diced Thai chilies. Then place mussels into a sterilized jar and cover with the pickled juice, pouring enough to cover all the mussels. Refrigerate and enjoy after 24 hours.
Smashed Fava Beans Bruschetta
Makes 2 servings
1 lb. fresh fava beans
Juice from half a lemon
1 radish (such as French breakfast radishes), thinly sliced
Pecorino cheese, grated
Slices of your favorite bread
Remove the fava beans from the pod and then bring a pot of water to boil. Add the fava beans and cook with a pinch of salt for about 20 minutes until the beans are soft. When done, drain and let sit in bowl of cold water until you can handle them. Then remove the outer skin of the fava bean, saving the bean inside.
Just like making guacamole, smash the fava beans in a bowl with a wooden spoon or spatula to the consistency you want (I like to keep mine a bit chunky where you can still see a few bean pieces). Add a pinch of salt and pepper and lemon juice, mixing well.
Assemble your bruschetta by toasting two slices of bread, then spreading the fava bean on top. Grate some of the pecorino cheese on top and finish with slices of radish. Serve immediately.
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