Steamed Mussels with Spicy Portuguese Sausage

Submitted by Liz Novak on Thu, 01/19/2017 - 17:59

I love picking through the shells and being forced to slow down to enjoy each bite, but getting to the smoky, bourbon broth with some good bread is the prize!

I couldn’t resist popping into The Clam Man while I was in Falmouth Tuesday. Normally I go manic in seafood markets, but with my recent new year’s resolution budget, I chose my cheapest option: mussels. I went home determined to make a dish only using what I already had in my pantry.

I added some Portuguese sausage and ground fennel for spice and some love. As a midwesterner, it’s in my blood to have sausage and cheese in the fridge at all times. New England is wonderful in that there are so many Portuguese foods available. I used chourico, which is spicy and fatty. That grease was perfect for sauteing some onions and garlic before adding the mussels.

Normally I would add wine or sherry at this point, but I didn’t have any. Subbing with bourbon, I landed myself on what Bob Ross calls a “happy accident.” After they opened their mouths and took in all those flavors, I divided the mussels up into bowls before adding some cream and questionable tarragon to the broth. This was poured over the bowls.

I love picking through the shells and being forced to slow down to enjoy each bite, but getting to the broth is the prize! The bourbon added some smoke to the spicy cream sauce. I soaked it all up with some ciabatta from the Bean + Cod.


  • 3 lbs mussels (cleaned)
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 lb chourico, casings removed and sliced (other semi-hard cooked sausage will work too)
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
  • 1/3 cup bourbon
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp chopped tarragon

Whisk the flour in 6 cups of cold water. Place the mussels in there for about an hour. I’ve found that not only will the mussels spit out any grit, they’ll plump up because the mussels will get nourishment from the flour. This is not a necessary step if you just need to dive into those mollusks, but it does make a noticeable difference in how ample the mussels will be.

Saute the slices of chourico in butter on medium heat until fragrant and hot (about 4-5 minutes). Add the garlic, onion, and fennel. Stir for about 5 minutes, until the onion is soft. Be careful not to burn the bottom. Turn the burner on low. Add the bourbon.

Drain the mussels and add them to the pot and cover. Stir occasionally to make sure the bottom isn’t burning until the mussels open.

Divide the mussels and sausage into bowls. Add the cream to the pot and stir. Ladle the sauce over the mussels and sausage.


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