Mussels may be one of my favorite express foods. They are surprisingly simple to prepare yet somewhat opulent, and unsurprisingly easy to eat. They pair well with fries, salad, and my personal favorite food group – bread. In the summer, they make for excellent patio company, and in the winter they do very well cozied up with your favorite pasta. Mussels also cook in break-neck time and are a compatible vehicle for all sorts of produce. Take today’s Michelada Mussels, for instance. This dish is an excellent way to use up the last of the season’s best cherry tomatoes without overwhelming them.
Yes, you read that correctly, these are Michelada Mussels. And yes, they are inspired by the Mexican beverage consisting of beer, lime juice, tomato juice, and hot sauce. The drink is usually served with a Tajín rim. For those of you who are unfamiliar with its charms, Tajín is a popular spice blend comprised of ground dried chiles, lime, and salt. If you can’t get your hands on the Tajín, cajun seasoning is a decent stand-in, but it is worth sending out a search party for.
So, now that you’re acquainted or reacquainted with the Michelada, let’s tackle how I translated the drink into mussels. The entire process starts as I would argue any batch of mussels should, with garlic and shallots. You can, of course, use regular onion, but there’s something in the shallot’s character that I like with mussels. I know my job here is to be descriptive, but I’m not entirely sure why I prefer shallots in this context. A bit of a food writer fail.
Introduce the shallots to a large pot along with a sprinkle of salt and a good glug of olive oil. Sweat the shallots and add the garlic. And there you have the beginnings of a solid flavor base. Now it’s time to introduce the cherry tomatoes. I prefer to add them whole and cook them down only slightly. I want them to retain a bit of their shape. But if you’re going for more of a saucy vibe, you can half them and cook them down to nothing. Even though I do prefer to add them whole, I do like to press a few of them with the back of my spoon to give them a little of their own liquid to cook in.
Once the tomatoes are where you want them, add the beer. I went with a blonde ale but any lightweight beer will do. I went with a local beer for this recipe – Ice Cold Beer from Left Field Brewery in Toronto to be exact. But in terms of beers with international brand name recognition, I would recommend Modello (a pilsner) or Tecate (a Mexican Golden Lager). We are emulating a Michelada here, it only makes sense to use Mexican beer. Once you have the beer of your choice, pour it into the pot. Use a regular-sized can, not a tallboy. Your mussels will be swimming otherwise.
With the beer, arguably the most important ingredient, in the pot it’s time to bring everything up to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat until it reaches a spirited simmer. Now, let’s add the mussels and you can do this in one of two ways. The first is to fit a steaming basket over the mouth of the pot and add the mussels to it. The second is to pop the mussels right into the pot. I went with a steaming basket because I own one, but if you don’t, there’s no shame in plunking the suckers right into the pot. You may want to reduce the heat slightly more if you go this route.
Steam the mussels for 6-7 minutes or until the mussels open. Discard any that did not open. They are not safe to eat. Place the mussels in a large bowl and set them aside briefly. Add hot sauce and lime juice to the tomato mixture and ladle it over top of the mussels. Then all that remains is to garnish the mussels with a sprinkling of Tajin and some fresh cilantro and you’re off to the races.
And that’s everything you need to know about these Michelada Mussels. They have everything you could possibly want in a late summer patio meal. And they pair incredibly well with the most perfect food in the world – bread.
Michelada Mussels with Burst Cherry Tomatoes
- A Large Pot
- Steaming basket
- 900g (2 lbs) mussels
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 3 shallots halved and sliced thin
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 3 cloves garlic peeled and sliced thin
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes
- 1 (355ml, 12 fl oz.) can blonde ale or lager
- ¼ cup hot sauce I used Valentina
- 1 lime juiced
- 2 tbsp Tajín***
- Fresh cilantro for sprinkling
- 1 loaf crusty bread for serving
- Place the mussels in a colander and rinse under cold water. Debeard the mussels and pick out any that are slightly open. Rap the slightly open mussels lightly on the sink to see if they close. If they don't close, discard them.900g (2 lbs) mussels
- Set the mussels aside and pour the olive oil into a large pot. Heat over medium until shimmering. Reduce the heat to low and add the shallots and salt. Sweat the shallots until translucent. Stir in the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds more.2 tbsp olive oil, 3 shallots, ½ tsp kosher salt, 3 cloves garlic
- Add the tomatoes to the pot and cook until they begin to sear – about 5 minutes. Press a few with the back of the spoon to release some juices. Continue to cook for 10 minutes more or until a loose tomato sauce begins to form. Pour in the beer and bring the mixture to a boil, before reducing to a spirited simmer.1 pint cherry tomatoes, 1 (355ml, 12 fl oz.) can blonde ale or lager
- Place the mussels in a steaming basket and place a lid on top. Fit the basket over the mouth of the pot and steam the mussels for 6-7 minutes or until the mussels open. **** If any mussels didn't open, discard them.900g (2 lbs) mussels
- Transfer the mussels to a large bowl and briefly set them aside. Stir the hot sauce and lime juice into the mussel steaming liquid and spoon it over the mussels. Garnish the mussels with Tajín and cilantro and serve immediately with a loaf of crusty bread for mopping up the sauce.¼ cup hot sauce, 1 lime, 2 tbsp Tajín***, Fresh cilantro, 1 loaf crusty bread