These steamed mussels with Angostura bitters are a fast and easy sophisticated dinner. Serve with lots of crusty toasted bread to soak up all the liquid! (Jump directly to the recipe.)
This post was sponsored by The House of Angostura. I was compensated for this post and for developing the recipe as well as provided tickets to the Cochon555 Heritage Fire event. However, all opinions below are completely my own and not endorsed by The House of Angostura.
“In Trinidad they use Angostura bitters like salt and pepper!” said a friend of mine as we stood in the hot Napa heat waiting in line for some roasted meat. I was up in St. Helena, in the heart of Napa Valley, at the Cochon 555 Heritage Fire event. The House of Angostura was a sponsor of the event and had brought my partner AJ and me up to experience all the heirloom roasted meats and vegetables dishes that the amazing California wine country chefs were creating. We drank wine and sipped Angostura mixed with sparkling water as we tried to stay cool from the heat. I love Angostura bitters in my cocktails, it never occurred to me to use it in my cooking until that moment. I made a mental note to try it out when I got home.
The Cochon 555 Heritage Fire event had over 50 chefs and butchers grilling and roasting heritage-bread animals and vegetables outside next to the vineyards. It was a spectacular site to see, made even more impressive since that afternoon was 109ºF outside! I chatted with another friend of mine who mentioned that most of the chefs were up and working by 8am, getting the meat ready to be roasted and stoking the flames of the charcoal and wood for the grilling.
As the event went on, with loud driving music and the crowd drinking and eating up nibbly bites of goat, lamb, steak, pork and so much more I kept on thinking about how much respect I had for all the chefs and butchers working away behind the tables. Occasionally the music would stop and the DJ would come on to announce that the temperature had dropped from 105ºF to 104ºF. The crowd would cheer in response but more than once I overheard the chefs joke with each other “Not for us!” as they tended to the roasting meat.
In the end, the crowd and the chefs still had a great time, despite the heat. Everyone there, in fact, loved the food, the wine, and the drinks tremendously. The crowd was still going strong as AJ and I slipped out to drive back to San Francisco. But not before one more quick drink of Angostura bitters and sparkling water. “It’s so refreshing!” said the woman in line ahead of us to her slightly tipsy friend. I couldn’t agree more.
Steamed Mussels with Angostura Aromatic Bitters
By Irvin Lin
Angostura aromatic bitters are known for their signature herbal addition to classic cocktails like the Manhattan or the Old Fashioned. But in Trinidad, where they made, they are often used in food as a seasoning. The herbal botanical bitters are a perfect addition to seafood like steamed mussels. Because they are so concentrated in flavor, you only need 3 or 4 dashes of them to add a complex undertone to the mussels and their steamed liquid.
2 pounds mussels
1 medium leeks
4 medium garlic cloves
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup white wine
3 to 4 dashes Angostura aromatic bitters
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1. Place the mussels in a large bowl and cover with water. Add half a tray of ice cubes and set aside while you prep and cook the other ingredients.
2. Cut off the green part of the leek and discard. Slice the leek lengthwise and then run the leek under water, fanning out the leek parts to make sure to clean every bit of sand. Slice the cleaned leek. Chop the garlic. Place the butter, garlic and leek in a large pot.
3. Heat on medium and cook until the butter melts and the leeks start to soften and the vegetables are fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the ground ginger, wine and Angostura aromatic bitters. Stir and heat until the liquid starts to boil.
4. While the liquid is heating up, scoop the mussels out of the water and place in a colander. The mussels will have expelled sand so don’t just dump them out of the bowl. Rinse the mussels and remove and beard that is still attached by pulling it toward the hinge of the mussel. Discard any mussels that are open and don’t close when you tap them.
5. Once the liquid is boiling, reduce heat to simmer and place the mussels in the pot. Cover for 8 minutes. While the mussels are steaming, slice the cherry tomatoes in half and chop the parsley.
6. When the 8 minutes are up, remove the cover. Discard any mussels that have not opened. Sprinkle the tomatoes and the parsley over the hot mussels. Serve immediately with toasted crusty bread to soak up the liquid and your favorite fries.
Serves 2 people for main course or 4 people as appetizers.