It usually takes me a week or so after Thanksgiving passes (an intermission), before I am ready to start hearing Christmas music on the radio, and get into the spirit of the season. I need the time to transition from pumpkins to holly.
I can’t just jump right in. What I can do though, is start thinking about what I want to cook during the holiday season. Menu planning is something that comes naturally for me, and it’s the getting together with family and friends over food and wine part of the season that really gets me excited about celebrating, so today I will share a recipe that I recently served as part of one of my cooking class menus. The ingredients have some Spanish influence, making them a nice addition to a tapas menu, but they also have that special holiday feel to them so sharing some of these with friends would be a very good idea.
The mussels are steamed in a wine broth, then pulled from their shells, chopped and added to the rest of the filling ingredients: sauteed serrano ham, spinach, and béchamel sauce. Some prep work on the front end, yes. But you are able to assemble the stuffed mussels and refrigerate up to one day ahead before they are topped with garlic aioli and popped under the broiler until golden brown and bubbly.
Even the people in cooking class who thought they didn’t like mussels fell in love with these.
So as you think about inviting friends over to share a glass of wine during the weeks ahead, I hope you will consider making these go along with your holiday cheer.
- 10 whole cloves garlic, peeled
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 cup mayonaise
- 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
- ¾ cup dry white wine
- 1 small yellow onion, minced
- 6 sprigs flat leaf parsley
- Pinch of dried thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 36 mussels (3 pounds)
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cups fresh spinach, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons minced ham (serrano, prosciutto, or black forest)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup milk
- Salt & freshly ground pepper
- For Aioli: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place garlic cloves in a very small baking dish. Cover garlic with oil (add enough to completely cover garlic), cover dish with foil, and bake until garlic is soft, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove garlic cloves with a slotted spoon and transfer to a dish to cool. Place cooled garlic, mayonnaise, and vinegar in the base of a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Reserve.
- For mussels: Bring the white wine, half of the onion, parsley, thyme, bay leaf, and mussels to a boil in a large covered saucepan over high heat. Once mussels have been cooking 3 minutes, check to see if they have begun to open. Remove the mussels with a slotted spoon as they open and transfer to a platter. Cool the mussels. Reduce the cooking liquid down to 2 tablespoons. Strain and reserve the liquid. Remove the mussels from their shells and save ⅔ of their shells. Separate each of the reserved shells into 2 halves. Chop the mussels coarsely and place in a large bowl.
- Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan. Cook the remaining onion until soft, 7 minutes. Add the spinach and ham to pan with onions, stirring until spinach has wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove mixture from pan and add to bowl with chopped mussels.
- Preheat the broiler. Heat the butter in a saucepan over medium low heat. Add the flour and cook; stirring 2 minutes. Add the milk and reserved cooking liquid and cook until smooth and very thick. Add to the mussels and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.
- Stuff the shells with the mussel mixture. Spread the aioli on top of the mussels and place on a baking sheet. Broil until golden, 10-20 seconds. Serve immediately.