Photo Credit: Agustin Sanchez
It’s been 2 months since our big trip out to the Pacific Northwest and I’m still trying to recreate some of the dishes we had out there. One of my favorite meals was at Higgins in Portland. We weren’t really in the mood for a fancy place, so we sat at the bar and ordered from the “bistro” menu. Of course, the Mussels with chorizo and polenta caught our eye right away. So did the house-cured charcuterie plate, the local beers and the shortbread cookie with basil ice cream and nectarine syrup (which reminds me…I have to make this!).
So, back to the mussels. I finally made them over the weekend and they were every bit as magical as I remember them from Portland. The broth was bright and flavorful and spicy from the chorizo, the polenta added a nice heft to the broth, and the mussels were the perfect briny contrast to the chorizo. I ate until I was too full and washed it all down with a cold, bitter beer.
Honestly, this might just be the perfect recipe for mussels. But if mussels aren’t your thing, this “broth” would be perfect for shrimp, lobster or even chunks of fresh fish. In fact, you can even skip the seafood and substitute chicken or omit the extra protein altogether and think of it as a thin chorizo polenta soup. Just delicious!
Mussels in Chorizo Polenta Broth
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
8 oz. Spanish chorizo, casings removed and chopped
4 cups chicken stock
1/3 cup white wine
8 oz. diced fire-roasted tomatoes (about half a small can)
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
few saffron threads
1/2 cup coarse polenta meal (corn grits, coarse-grind cornmeal)
pinch salt (optional and depends on your stock)
1.5 lbs. mussels, prepped*
1/2 cup Italian parsley, coarsely chopped
Heat a large pot over medium. Once it’s hot, add the olive oil and onions. Sautee the onions for a couple of minutes, then add the chorizo. Continue to cook until the chorizo fat renders and the onions soften, about 7 – 10 minutes.
Add the stock, wine, tomatoes, red pepper flakes, saffron and garlic. Once the stock comes to a simmer, reduct the heat to low/medium-low. Add the polenta and cook for 25 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes.
You pot should still have a good amount of liquid and the cooked polenta shouldn’t have thickened it too too much. If you don’t have a lot of liquid, add another cup of stock.
Toss your mussels into the pot, give it a good stir and cover. Your mussels are done when they open and separate from their shell. Cooking time varies with the size of the mussel – about 5 minutes for small ones and up to 8 minutes with the larger ones. Discard any mussels that haven’t opened – they’ve gone bad.
Serve in deep bowls and ladle on the polenta-y broth. Sprinkle with parsley and dig in!
Makes 2 – 4 dinner servings or 6 – 8 appetizer servings.
*Prepping mussels means removing the “beard” – black hair-like threads that stick out of the shell. Remove the beards (sometimes, I need pliers – especially with fresh mussels), then give them a good rinse to make sure all the sand and grit have washed off.