Tiki Bar Spicy Mussels

We recently visited Florida for the first time and spent our days in Miami and the Keys. I was taken by surprise by the beauty of the colours I found in the nature, the dedication to preserve the historic art deco architecture in South Beach and the quality of the food!

The Spicy Mussels in Garlic Tomato Sauce at the Islamorada Tiki Bar is by far the best starter I had during my stay. The Grill Fish Bar in Miami South Beach (EspaƱola Way and Collins) did a good job, but couldn't top it.

Once home I couldn't wait to reproduce the Tiki Bar's version of what apparently is quite a common dish in the South Florida area. I put this recipe together and got my husband's thumbs up! It makes a starter for 6 to 8.

What you need
•big mussel pan
•paella style pan (wide, round, not too high)

Ingredients for the sauce
•2 red bell peppers (washed, cleaned and finely chopped)
•40 g of green olives  (cut in rings)
•3 anchovies filets (minced into a paste)
•2 medium onions (finely chopped)
•4 big cloves of garlic (finely sliced)
•4 medium tomatoes (washed, cubed)
•2 tbsp of capers
•500 ml of fish stock
Himalayan salt & pepper to taste
•4 tbs virgin olive oil
•a handful of fresh parsley (chopped)

Ingredients for the mussels
•2 kg of fresh mussels
•2 glasses of dry white wine
•4 big cloves of garlic (sliced)
•2 chili peppers (sliced, with seeds)
•4 tbs virgin olive oil

What you do

Rinse the mussels under the cold water, pulling off any beards, scraping off any barnacles or dirt. Discard open or broken shells;
•soak the mussels for an hour in a bucket full of clean cold water. The mussels will then clean themselves inside out by soaking water and discarding any sand or dirt they might have inside;
•heat four tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan, add the chillies and four garlic cloves, peeled and sliced. Fry over a medium heat for 2 minutes, stirring until the garlic is soft and golden brown;
•now add the clean mussels, put the lid to the pan and cook over a high heat for 2 minutes. Give the pan a good shaking once in a while, making sure the heat distributes well within the pan;
Add the white wine and cook until the the mussels are open (this will take 5 to 6 minutes);
•now strain the liquid left in the saucepan. Set the mussels and the strained juice aside (you want the strainer to have tiny wholes to make sure you get all possible sand and dirt that might be left in the pan after cooking the mussels);

•discard any unopened shells;

Tomato Sauce
•preheat your saucepan at medium heat and add 4 tbsp of virgin olive oil;
•now add the onion and garlic and cook till it becomes transparent. Do not allow it to get brown!
•two minutes later add the peppers;
•five minutes later add the capers, the olives and the tomatoes;
•five minutes later add a bit of Himalayan salt and some freshly grinded pepper;
•now put the lid on your pan, lower the heat and let it simmer for 1 1/2 hours, stirring with a wooden spoon once in a while adding the fluids (mussel fluids and fish stock) as you go along;
•add the minced anchovies to the tomato sauce;
•once the tomato sauce is cooked (but is still a little bit liquid), add the mussels and the freshly chopped flat leaf parsley. Stir gently. When the mussels are back to temperature, serve and enjoy!

•The paella pan I have at home was not big enough for 2 kg of mussels and as I started arranging the mussels in my paella pan, it soon got quite crowded. If this happens to you, take some mussels out of the shell to safe on some room. That is what I did.
•The tomato sauce should not be too thick, but rather liquid.