Beer-Batter Mussels with Florina Red Pepper Sauce
Florina peppers are long, fleshy, and bright red and are named for the Macedonian town of Florina. They grow in other parts Macedonia and Thrace, too. They are delicious roasted, which is usually how they are enjoyed, and are one of the most successful Greek exports, roasted and preserved in brine. They stand on their own as an excellent snack or meze but often are used in sauces and dips, especially combined with feta or other soft white cheeses, olive oil and herbs. This is a great meze for ouzo, or for one of the great new Greek beers that are taking over the market by storm. To find some of the artisinal Greek products you'll need to make this, visit my online shop here, where you'll discover a host of lovingly curated Greek ingredients.
For the Red Pepper Sauce
- 1 large tomato cored
- 1 dried chile pepper
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin Greek olive oil
- 2 tablespoons hazelnuts toasted
- 2 tablespoons blanched almonds
- 1 1/2-inch-thick slice firm white bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 2 large garlic cloves chopped
- 1/8 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes Greek boukovo
- 1/4 cup drained red Florina peppers rinsed
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
For fried mussels
- 1 cup beer
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- Vegetable oil for frying
- 2 pounds /1 kilo mussels cleaned and steamed, then shucked
Make the dipping sauce: Pulse all the ingredients in a food processor at high speed to form a thick paste.
Make batter and fry mussels
Whisk beer into flour in a bowl until combined well.
Heat oil in a 4-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat until thermometer registers 375°F.
While oil is heating, pat mussels dry between layers of paper towels, pressing lightly.
Dredge the mussels in batter, a handful at a time, letting excess drip off. Fry in the hot oil, stirring, until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer mussels as fried with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain, then season with salt. Fry remaining mussels in batches in same manner, returning oil to 375°F / 190°Cbetween batches.