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Monday, May 16, 2016

MEJILLÓN WITH A MARVELLOUS ROMAN RECIPE FOR MUSSELS

Washed and Scrubbed Mussels
Photo by: Lord-Williams
OCast mosellón, L. Mytilus galloprovincialis, ME muscules, muscles, muskels, Eng. European mussel. Taking into account that there are 126 species of mussels, it is hardly surprising that that they are present everywhere in the world providing water temperatures necessary for survival in oceans and seas.

Villena states that mussels are probably European. If the English were to cite mussels, probably they would be relating to the Mytilus edulis or common mussel. The European mussel is black, while the common mussel is purple, blue or brown. Species vary in size, shape as well as sex. A perfectly designed mussel would be in the form of a teardrop but no mussel is perfect. Some are more rounded and others more elongated.

Females are larger then males. Fertilization is external. The females release eggs and the males do the same with sperm. Fifteen hours after fertilization, the larvae develop teeth-like structures, which cling to one another in columns. The larvae secret threads 10-12 days after fertilization. Then they cling to rocks or other surfaces in the ocean. The spawning period, from December to February, is in waters from 10-30o. In colder areas it can be from April to August. By Easter in Spanish Levante, on the Mediterranean, underwater rocks in shallow areas are layered with baby mussels, ripe for scraping and boiling in garlic, a bay leaf, a little oil, lemon and water.

Mussels in Cream Sauce
Photo by: Lord-Williams
Until now mussels have been a poor man’s food from April through September in Spain at least. All is required it removing them from the rocks and boiling them up as indicated. They can be served as the basic part of a meal or as an appetizer. 

Apicius provides a recipe for rissoles of mussels. The English made a "cawdel of muskels." After boiling the mussels, they were washed with wine, chopped or ground and added to a mixture of vinegar, almond milk, verjuice and broth. These were heated and parboiled onions and leeks were added with seasoning.

It must be noted that while oysters in Spain can be bad, mussels are not as a general rule. Care, however, must be taken when eating them in France and England where intoxication is not infrequent, while intoxication from oysters is rare. [Apicius/Flower 1958:XX:88-91;
Curye. 1985:176; ES: Crochet. Jun 22, 98. ES: Dic. Gastron. May 5, 02; ES: Lear. Nov 6, 03; and Villena/Calero. 2002:100:23a]

MUSSELS, ANOTHER METHOD ADAPTED FROM APICIUS/FLOWER CH III:XX:3. ALITER: SPHONDYLOS ELIXOS, pp 88-89[1]


Ingredients

½ lb mussels
2 c white wine
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp coriander seeds
½ tsp peppercorns

Sauce:
A Devine Twist to a Delicious Dish
Photo by: Lord-Williams
1 tsp dried celery leaves
½ tsp fresh rue
1 tbsp honey
¼ tsp white pepper
1 c liquid from boiling mussels
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp flour

Garnish
¼ tsp ground pepper
rue leaves


Preparation

Wash mussels well and scrap off any debris with a knife. Put wine and other ingredients into a pot and bring to a boil. When the shells open, remove from heat and strain. 

Put the ingredients for the sauce in a food processor. Grind well. Pour into a saucepan and thicken with flour. Pour this over mussels, garnish with pepper and serve.



APICIUS/FLOWER CH III:XX:3, pp 88-89


























[1] This recipe was first published in the Medieval Spanish Chef’s (MSC) blog “gigorza” on November 24, 2014. It remains to be the MSF’s favorite for mussels!

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