Aug 23, 2013

Cozze fritte – Fried mussels

Eating piping hot fried mussels from a paper cone, while strolling down the street. You can't make this stuff up, it actually happens in the summer in Taranto, and in other parts of Apulia, the heel of the boot. We are talking street food to the nth degree which employs fresh, local ingredients and pure regional knowledge, applied to daily life.

The fantastically crunchy on the outside, marine salty, sexy and velvety aromatic on the inside cozze fritte are true morsels of foodporn. Not the photographic, shallow depth of field foodie kind: I’m talking about the actual hands on, hard-core, triple-X, foodgasm-inducing mangia; the kind that will have you reminiscing for days, giving you sensual memory-triggered butterflies and shivers.

What was that about shellfish not being aphrodisiac? I dare you to try these, and resists the temptation. You'll look back on oysters like a second grader regards his training wheels.

1 egg + 1 egg white
100 g (3 oz) flour, sifted
500 g (1.1 lb) medium-large mussels (summer’s the right season for these, so get them while you can, northern hemisphere friends!)
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 leek, the white part only and minced
A sprig of fresh thyme, finely chopped
The juice of 1 lemon
1 glass of dry, white wine
180 ml (6 fl oz) lager (don’t use light beer)
Extra virgin olive oil for marinade, plus more for frying
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large mixing bowl, beat and season the egg with a pinch of salt. Beat the egg white separately until peaks form.

Sift the flour and add it with the minced leek, fluffy egg white and the beer to the egg, mixing well. This is your batter. Cover it up with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Wash, brush and clean your mussels, carefully removing the byssus and barnacles from the valves, rinsing them in a salt-water solution, and then draining them well.

Steam the mussels in a large covered pan with chopped shallots, thyme, freshly ground black pepper and the wine, simmering over a vivacious flame to make the valves open, about 4-5 minutes. Discard any that fail to open.

When cool enough to manage with your bare hands, remove the mussels from their shells and marinade them in a bowl with lemon juice, 3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a large enough frying pan.

When the oil is hot but not smoking, fish your mussels out of the marinade with a slotted spoon and dunk them in the chilled leek-flavored batter.
Plunge them immediately in the boiling hot oil and fry in small batches for a few minutes, or until golden and crisp. The temperature shock from the chilled, airy batter hitting the scalding oil guarantees the best results.

Park briefly on a paper towel and serve hot-hot-hot with a curry or ginger–flavored mayo dip. Conversely, the bottle of sparkling Frenciacorta Satén must be cold-cold-cold.

Images courtesy of - corrierecucina


  1. Here I go, off to Taranto, just because this kind of food, and your description, are worth the trip!

    1. Or make them, close your eyes and dream of the marine salt flats and the aroma di mare...

  2. Che bello. I love your description of the cozze. I will be making these for my husband (and myself, of course)! He is from Italy and we just moved back from there one year ago. I think he will love these!

    1. Thank you! I'm sure you'll find many recipes in this blog to make relieve a little of your husband's homesickness :)

  3. I can imagine those fried mussels can be addicting! I could see myself wolfing them down...

  4. Wonder if I got Fish in paper (here in the UK) could I imagine the taste ,, NO I don't think so .. Now that is great street food. I would try and make them at home, but my husband has gone off Mussels and I am sure they would not taste the same ..No leave it to the Italians :-)

    1. If you ever decide to give it a shot, you know you can rely on your fried food manic! :)

  5. I never thought that this is a mussel since it looks like chicken wings too. I wish I could go to Italy and eat Italian foods like this. Eating piping hot fried mussels from a paper cone seems a great idea. I guess I should check out the recipe so I could try it soon.

    1. Please do and let me know how they turn out!