Mussels a la Plancha

Morita chiles are red, fully mature Chipotles. This gives them a unique, medium – hot smokey flavor which is popular in many Southwestern dishes. These can be added to sauces (including Mole) to add smokey flavor and maintain the red color of the sauces. These peppers are about 2-4 inches in length, 1 inch in width, and have a deep brick reddish brown color. The word Chipotle translated to smoked chile. Consider the Chipotle a 6.5 on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the hottest). Scoville heat units 7,000-25,000.

Suggested Use:
Use Morita in enchilada sauces, chili, stews, barbecue ribs, and corn bread. Their smoky quality combines well with poultry, meats and fall squash.

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2 pounds small mussels (preferably cultivated), scrubbed well and beards pulled off
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
1/4 cup Veracruz salsa
1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1/4 tsp. coarse salt, or to taste
6 fresh epazote leaves* if desired, chopped

For the salsa:

2 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 plum tomato
1 Tbsp. corn oil
12 morita chiles* with seeds or 8 dried chipotle chiles* with seeds
1-1/2 cups hot water
1/4 tsp. coarse salt, or to taste
* available at Mexican markets


To make the mussels:

Prepare grill.

Preheat a large griddle or 12″ cast-iron skillet on a rack over very hot coals. When the griddle or skillet is very hot, add the mussels and cook, stirring occasionally if using a skillet, until the mussels open, about 3 minutes. Discard any unopened mussels.

While the mussels are cooking, in a small saucepan heat the butter and salsa over moderately high heat until the mixture sizzles. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the lime juice, salt and epazote.

Drizzle the sauce over the mussels.

To make the salsa:

Heat a dry comal or flat iron griddle over moderately low heat until it is hot and pan-roast the garlic and tomato, turning them occasionally to ensure even roasting, until they are brown and soft throughout, about 25-30 minutes. Discard the garlic skins and the tomato stem.

In a heavy skillet heat the oil over moderately high heat until it is hot but not smoking, and using tongs, fry the chiles, 1 or 2 at a time, turning them, until they puff and are just beginning to brown, about 10 seconds. Transfer the chiles as fried, letting any excess oil drip into the skillet, to paper towels to drain and, wearing rubber gloves, discard the stems.

In a blender puree the garlic, tomato, chiles, water and salt until the mixture is very smooth. (The salsa may be made 2 days ahead of time and chilled, covered in the refrigerator.) Makes about 2 cups.

Recipe from La Parilla: The Mexican Grill, July 1996, by Reed Hearon.