Stuffed mussels, or Tigres, are one of the most popular tapas in northern Spain. Mussels are finely chopped and mixed with onion, pepper, tomato sauce to form a delicious filling. They are then breaded and lightly fried. This version separates the filling from the béchamel sauce, rather than mixed in with it. Although it takes a bit more time to prepare, the filling has more flavor and the crust is crispier due to two layers of breadcrumbs.
Prep Tip: To finely chop hardboiled egg without making a mess on the cutting board, place the hardboiled eggs in a 16-ounce wide mouth glass. Then, holding the knife vertically cut eggs into small pieces. Turn the glass every 3-4 cuts and the eggs will quickly be chopped into tiny pieces.
- 24 to 36 raw mussels in shell
- Spanish virgin olive oil
- 1 leek
- 1/2 medium white onion
- 1/4 green bell pepper
- 2 eggs, hard-boiled
- 2 to 3 ounces white wine
- 2 tablespoons tomato sauce
- 3 heaping tablespoons flour (unbleached white)
- 4 ounces milk, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 cup breadcrumbs, for breading
- 2 large eggs
- Optional: Spanish oloroso sherry
Boil eggs until hard. Place in cold water to cool. Peel and cut in half. Chop finely and set aside.
Clean mussels of any debris on outer shells and rinse thoroughly. Pour approximately 1 to 1 1/2 cups cold water and a pinch of salt into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add mussels and cover. Steam until shells open (approximately 3 to 5 minutes). Discard any mussels that do not open their shells. Pour broth into a bowl and reserve for use later. Allow mussels to cool for 10 minutes, or until shells are cool enough to touch.
Remove mussel meat from shells. Keep the shells to fill. Finely chop the mussel meat.
Finely chop leek (white portion only), onion and green pepper. Place a medium frying pan over low heat and sauté the vegetables in a few tablespoons of olive oil until they are transparent and soft. Add the chopped mussels and a few teaspoons of white wine. Stir, continuing to sauté 1-2 minutes. Add chopped boiled egg, 2 tablespoons of tomato sauce and salt to taste. Mix thoroughly. Remove from heat and allow to cool 5 to 10 minutes.
Once filling has cooled, fill mussel shells with mixture. Spoon approximately 1 1/2 tablespoons of mixture into each shell, filling it completely.
Pour 4 tablespoons olive oil into a small saucepan and heat on medium. When hot, add approximately 3 heaping tablespoons flour into pan and stir, frying the flour. Continue to stir with a fork or wire whip, so that sauce does not form clumps. While stirring constantly, add reserved broth. When broth has been absorbed, the sauce should be thickening. Slowly pour in milk while stirring. Add pepper and mix thoroughly. For this recipe, the béchamel sauce should not be too thick.
Before béchamel sauce cools, spoon over filled mussel shells, covering mixture completely. (Don't worry if sauce drips off the shells a bit.) Set on a platter or large plate and sprinkle each filled shell with bread crumbs before béchamel cools. (Once cooled, a thin film will form on top and breadcrumbs will not stick.) Allow tigres to cool completely, then refrigerate or freeze if they will not be fried immediately.
Beat two eggs in a wide shallow bowl or small baking dish. Pour breadcrumbs into a small bowl. Set both bowls close to the stove. Pour olive oil into a large heavy-bottomed frying pan to a depth of 1-inch (approximately 16 to 20 ounces). Heat on medium. While waiting for oil to heat, quickly dip filled side of the shells into the beaten egg, then roll in the breadcrumbs. Fry in a pan, until upper crust is golden. Remove and allow to drain on a paper towel. Serve warm.
Optional: Sprinkle a bit of oloroso sherry on top of each Tigre for added flavor just before serving.