When the crew gets back from their weekly marketing at Guadalupe market, there is almost ALWAYS a seafood meal for their lunch that day. They often bring back fresh fish for kinilaw or paksiw, lato or other seaweed for a refreshing salad, or other bounty from the sea. A few days ago, the cook came home with a kilo or so of small mussels or tahong. I asked how they planned to cook it and it sounded like they were going to make a soup but I wondered if they might like it baked instead. Our cook had never baked these before, so I figured it was a chance to instruct as well as enjoy a new dish. When I make this, as I have posted before, I use parmesan, breadcrumbs, sometimes bacon or pancetta, see posts here and here. But this time around, I wanted to see how inventive we could get with whatever we found in the fridge, freezer or cupboards…
A few days before, I had asked the cook to use up a half ball of Quezo de bola that was in the deep freeze, so she grated it, added it to roughly 1 cup of butter and now we had sandwich spread that is put on toast or pan de sal then put under a broiler to melt and crisp up. We took that out of the fridge to thaw a bit. Then I rummaged through the fridge and found a bottle of homemade chili pickles, made from chilies I brought back from Bacolod. Then we found some homemade breadcrumbs in the cupboards. So this is the recipe for baked mussels with odds and ends… don’t laugh, they turned out BRILLIANTLY.
First, the mussels were steamed open in some very hot water with a touch of ginger and green onions to remove any off and langsa (off-smells or tastes), they said. Yikes, I am a bit paranoid about local shellfish given my explosive experience with clams a few years ago, here, so I was worried that they even continued with a recipe if the shellfish didn’t smell totally right. Then the half cooked mussels were put on a pan on their half shells. We topped the mussels with a mixture of butter, quezo de bola and breadcrumbs, and about a third of the mussels were topped with chopped chili pickles and put into a hot oven to broil. Once the cheese had melted and browned a bit they were removed and ready to eat. I had one mussel just to taste if it was good and they were REALLY good. The crew ate every single one of the baked mussels and nobody got a bum stomach… But I am still wary of shellfish from nearby polluted waters… If you want to do this but are fearful of local mussels, you can always try it with those imported green lipped New Zealand mussels that arrive here frozen. They are a bit tough, but I gather come from some of the cleanest waters in the world.