The Spanish excel at preserving food, and chef Ryan Pollnow always has several conservas on the menu at Aatxe ("Ah-chay") restaurant in San Francisco. These lightly pickled mussels are surprisingly easy to make, yet taste as though you spent hours on them. Serve with hunks of warm baguette to soak up the spicy, delicious oil.
1 pound plump, medium-size mussels
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced crosswise
1 shallot, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 teaspoon smoked sweet Spanish paprika (Pimentón de La Vera, dulce)*
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 1/2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
How to Make It
Heat a 4-qt. pot over high heat. Add mussels and 1/4 cup water; immediately cover to trap steam. Cook just until mussels open, 2 to 4 minutes. Drain, discarding any unopened ones. Let cool, then scrape mussels from shells into a bowl.
Heat oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add garlic, shallot, paprika, and saffron. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often, until garlic and shallot are soft but not golden.
Remove mixture from heat and stir in salt and vinegar. Pour over mussels. Set bowl in a larger bowl of ice and cold water and let mussels cool until cold.
Transfer mussels and pickling mixture to a pt.-size jar (or 2 smaller ones). Tamp mussels gently to just submerge, then chill at least 1 and up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature before eating.
*Find the paprika at well-stocked grocery stores and online at spanishtable.com.