Mussels With Romesco Sauce & Grilled Bread

Recipe by Phil Cropper
Photo by Grant L. Gursky

For The Sauce
2 dried, mild red chilies, such as New Mexico*, seeded and torn into large pieces
   (wear rubber gloves)

1/3 cup red-wine vinegar

¼ cup whole blanched almonds

2/3 cup olive oil

2 slices firm, white sandwich bread

1 medium onion, chopped

3 large garlic cloves, chopped coarse

4 plum tomatoes (about ½ pound), peeled, seeded and chopped

1 tsp sweet paprika

½ cup dry white wine

½ cup water

2 lbs mussels (preferably cultivated), scrubbed well and beards pulled off

2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh coriander sprigs, washed well and spun-dry

*Available at Hispanic markets and some specialty-foods shops or Harris Teeter

To Make The Sauce
1. In a small bowl, soak chilies, flesh sides down, in vinegar for 30 mins. Remove chilies, reserving vinegar in bowl and scrape flesh from skins of chilies, discarding skins. Return chili flesh to reserved vinegar.

2. In a heavy skillet, cook almonds in 2 Tbsp oil over moderately low heat, stirring until golden, then transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels, to drain. Heat oil remaining in skillet over moderate heat until hot, but not smoking, and fry bread, turning it until golden. Transfer bread to a cutting board and cut into cubes.

3. In a skillet, heat remaining oil over moderate heat until hot, but not smoking, and cook onion, stirring until edges are just golden. Add garlic and cook, stirring until garlic is pale golden. Add chili mixture, almonds, bread cubes, tomatoes and paprika, and cook, stirring occasionally, 2 mins. In a food processor, purée mixture coarse and season with salt. Sauce may be made 1 week ahead and chilled, covered.

4. In a heavy pot, stir together wine, water and 1 cup sauce, reserving remaining sauce for another use, and bring to a boil. Add mussels and boil gently, covered, 4 mins or until most are opened. Transfer mussels to a serving dish, discarding any unopened ones. Simmer sauce, stirring until reduced and thickened slightly; spoon over mussels. Sprinkle mussels with coriander. Serve with grilled rustic bread and fresh herbs.

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