The Basque Country is most definitely one of the most famous regions in Spain for its incredibly tasty cuisine. One of my first culinary discoveries when I came to Spain was a local Basque classic, although I discovered it in Madrid. I never forgot the name….Tigers! ó should I say ‘Tigres’? I never quite understood the logic behind the name but I understood straight away the logic behind eating them. They were delicious!
In a nutshell ‘Tigres’ are stuffed mussles and are a perfect example of a recipe that uses simple ingredients to create a dish with big flavour. Although it can be a little fiddly to make, it is really worth it. This tapas is usually found in Bilbao to the North of Spain where fresh seafood and shell fish are in abundance. I later discovered that this dish is often served with a spicy tomato and anchovy sauce which apparently led to the name 'tigres', because they are so fiery in their taste.
As with all shell fish dishes, make sure that you wash the shells thoroughly and follow the golden rules of cooking shell fish. Before you cook them, throw away any mussels that are already open. Yet when you finish cooking them, get rid of any of the mussels whose shells remain closed. Also, don't forget to ask if any of your guests are allergic to seafood! However before you throw opened mussles away make sure you haven't handled the mussels for at least 15-20 minutes. Mussels tend to open when they haven't been moved for a while, ie the fridge all night. But when they are moved or handled they are quite slow to react. Let's say their defense mechanisms are not lightning quick after being out of water for long periods and they can take a little while to close again. So be patient, otherwise you might find yourself throwing out live mussels unecessarily.
This is what you'll need to make 'Tigres' (Mejillones Rellenos) | Stuffed Mussles
• 18 mussels, scrubbed well and beards removed
• 3 tbsps water
• 2 tbsps olive oil
• 1 tbsp onion, minced
• 2 tbsps flour
• 3 tbsps white wine
• ½ cup mussel stock (you will make this in the cooking process)
• 1 egg, beaten with 1 tbsp of water
• 4 tbsps fine dry breadcrumbs
• Olive oil for frying
• Makes 18 pieces
1. Steam open the mussels by placing them in a deep saucepan full of water. Cover the pan and place over a high hear and cook until the shells open. Remove the pan from the heat and throw away any of the mussels that do not open.
2. Once the mussels have cooled sufficiently so that you can handle them, start removing and discarding the halves of the shells which are empty. Loosen the meat of the mussels from the bottom shell and then chop up the mussels. Strain the mussel water and keep to one side.
3. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and then fry the minced onion until it goes soft but do not let it go brown. Stir in the flour and cook for a minute stirring frequently. To this, add the wine and mussel liquid and mix well. Cook this mixture, stirring constantly, until it thickens and is of a smooth consistency, now add in the chopped mussel meat.
4. Put a spoonful of the mussel and white sauce into each mussel shell and smooth it down so that it is more or less level with the top of the shell.
5. Place the tray of filled mussels into the fridge until the sauce is firmly set which should take at least an hour.
6. Place the beaten egg into one dish and the breadcrumbs in another dish. Then dip each mussel, open side down into the egg and then into the breadcrumbs to coat that side. Arrange the dipped mussels onto a tray. At this point you can then freeze the mussels if you want to eat them at a later date. When you come to cook them, allow them to defrost for at least an hour before continuing with the rest of the recipe.
7. To cook the mussels, heat up enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a frying pan. Fry the mussels in two or three separate batches, placing the breaded side down and frying until they turn golden brown.
8. Drain the mussels slightly with paper towels and then serve hot.