Tag Archives: mussels

Stuffed Mussels with Serrano Ham, Spinach, & Garlic Aioli



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.

Stuffed Mussels with Serrano Ham, Spinach, & Garlic Aioli
Serves: 6
  • Aioli:
  • 10 whole cloves garlic, peeled
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 cup mayonaise
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • Mussels:
  • 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
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. servings



I have a hidden talent that you may not know about me.

If a football game is on TV, I can actually APPEAR to be looking at the screen, but can be THINKING about something totally different in my head; completely detached from what is happening in the game. Some  refer to this as the “football glaze over effect”, but I like to think of it as a gift; “productive thought management”, a little like meditation, where I get to plan and organize my thoughts. I use this time for things like figuring out what my menus for upcoming cooking classes will be, where I want to go on vacation next, and contemplating whether I should join a CSA or just continue to shop the farmer’s market and pick out what I like.

Occasionally, my husband will shout ” Oh my god, did you see that hit?!”

At this point, I snap out of it briefly to reply “~No~”

“But you were looking right at the TV” (my husband will say).

Like I said, it’s a gift.

Though I may not be a football fan, I am all about camaraderie. Whether its sitting on the couch with my husband while he cheers on his Broncos, or with a room full of super bowl party friends, I will be there, and I will help you eat the game day  food!

When we lived in San Francisco, we would get together with friends and make a big pot of Cioppino for super bowl Sunday. This Italian seafood soup gets its amazing flavor by adding the freshest seafood you can find. I am using a combination of halibut, clams, mussels, and crab in this recipe, but remember, you have a lot of flexibility with this tomato based soup. The origin of this dish is taking the “catch of the day” and adding it to your simmering broth. So if grouper is fresh that day, go for it. If you want to add squid, great.

Cioppino is gratifying any day of the week, but especially enjoyable on super bowl Sunday. There are so many chips, dips, and other temptations, it’s kind of nice to finish with a bowl of soup, brimming with seafood. You have to save room for dessert, right? Check out these cute cupcake ideas from Jeanne Benedict !

So how about you…are you ready for some football?

What will you be eating?


3 tablespoons olive oil

1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced

1 onion, chopped

3 large shallots, chopped

2 teaspoons salt

4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 cup tomato paste

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice

2 cups red wine

4 cups chicken broth

1 cup clam juice

1 bay leaf

1 pound lump crab meat

1 pound mussels, scrubbed, debearded

1 pound clams, scrubbed clean, grit removed

1 pound uncooked large shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 1/2 pounds firm-fleshed fish such as halibut or grouper, cut into 2-inch pieces

Heat the oil in a very large pot over medium heat. Add the fennel, onion, shallots, and salt and saute until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and saute 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste. Add tomatoes with their juices, wine, chicken broth, clam juice, and bay leaf. Cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the flavors blend, about 30 minutes.

Add the  mussels and clams to the cooking liquid. Cover and cook until the  mussels and clams  begin to open, about 5 minutes. Add the shrimp, crab,  and fish. Simmer gently until the fish and shrimp are just cooked through, stirring gently, about 5 minutes longer (discard any  mussels that do not open).

Ladle the soup into bowls and serve.

6-8 servings


It all started with the Hanoi Mojito…

Mussels in Thai red curry sauce

I read a blog post earlier this week written by Steven Gdula, author of The Warmest Room in the House, about a cocktail he named the Hanoi Mojito. A sparkling beverage with hints of lemongrass, ginger root , Thai basil, and vodka.  I liked the sounds of all of it and knew right away  with a warm weekend coming up I would have to invite friends over and give them a try. I don’t usually develop recipes around a cocktail, but in this case, that is exactly what happened.  I went for flavors that had some Thai influence with a little bit of heat (just enough) and  a smooth  coconut balance.  When our guests arrived we enjoyed the Hanoi Mojitos  during cocktail hour with Steamed Mussels in Thai Red Curry Sauce…a delicious match!

I followed Steven’s recipe to the letter on the first batch, with the exception of straining the simple syrup after letting it steep (I don’t like OJ with pulp either…).  I thought  I might like a little less simple syrup and more lime, so for the sake of research, I made another round, this time cutting the simple syrup in half and adding 2 extra lime wedges. Success! The result was a clean, crisp, refreshing cocktail that became  the  perfect start to our evening. You might like your drinks a little sweeter…it’s all just a matter of preference.

These little cocktails were a hit at our house, I hope you like them too.


Steamed Mussels in Thai Red Curry Broth

1 (14.5 ounce) can coconut milk

2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste

2 tablespoons chopped Thai basil leaves (plus more for garnish)

2 dozen mussels, scrubbed clean, debearded

Combine cocnut milk and red curry paste in a large saucepan, whisking to dissolve curry paste over medium high heat. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to a vigorous simmer. Add mussels and chopped basil. Cook until mussels have opened, about 5-7 minutes. Transfer mussels to serving bowl and garnish with chopped basil.

6 servings