I didn’t always like muscles. For some reason, up until maybe six or seven years ago, I didn’t ever think of ordering them in restaurants and I certainly didn’t know how to cook them. Then one day I couldn’t get enough. I remember sitting in a restaurant in Paris, telling my husband that I want to eat muscles until I never want to look at them again, and since my wish was his command, he kept ordering and ordering and ordering until we started getting funny looks from the waiters. They came in cast iron cauldrons, fragrant with white wine and herbs, with huge charred croutons to soup up the juice. Pure happiness under the heavy lid… Fast forward to my recent trip to California and it was an entirely different kind of a dish. Spicy with homemade sausage, heavy on the charred pepper, a bit sweet and fragrant from the spices, a completely different preparation, but still happiness on the plate.
When I eat something I love, I immediately set to recreate it at home. The memory of the taste will haunt me until the recipe is figured out, mastered and safely tucked into my file. This is the best muscles I ever made and as close as I could get to the Californian version without kidnapping the chef.
Spicy chorizo muscles
4 lbs of muscles scrubbed and de-bearded
1.5 cups of fresh chorizo ( see my recipe here.) You can use the pre-cooked kind, just make sure to take off the sausage casing before chopping
2 tbs olive oil
2 cups of dry white wine
3 cups of chicken stock
1 large carrot shredded
1 medium Spanish onion shredded
2 celery stalks shredded
1 red bell pepper shredded
1 roasted red pepper shredded
5 garlic cloves minced
0.5 tbs of smoked paprika
2 tbs of unsalted butter
Chopped parsley or Basil
Salt and Pepper to taste
Thick slices of charred country bread to serve (see Note)
Note: 1) You may want to spread the bread olive oil and minced garlic mixture before toasting or grilling.
2) You need a large pan for this, big enough to fit all your muscles and allow you to stir them from the bottom up in the sauce. I use a turkey roaster as it also has a lid.
In a large pan, heat the olive oil. Brown the sausage until crispy. Add the carrot, celery and garlic and sauté on medium-low heat for one minute. Add all the peppers and sauté the vegetable and sausage mixture for another 4-5 minutes. Add smoked paprika, salt and pepper and white wine. Allow the wine to cook out for a few minutes, and then add the stock. Bring the sauce to a boil and reduce to a simmer, cover and let it cook for 10 minutes. Adjust salt and pepper seasoning before adding the muscles. Once you add all the muscles, cook them covered, stirring occasionally so that they cook evenly – 5-6 minutes or until the muscles just open. When most muscles have opened, turn off the heat, stir in butter and herbs, cover and let stand for 2 minutes. Stir muscles one more time before serving with thick slices of toasted bread.