Tigres are an interesting type of tapa. Chopped mussels are added to a very thick white sauce (similar to croqueta dough) which is then stuffed into mussel shells, breaded and fried. They are very popular and frequently served for special occasions. You can buy ready-to-cook tigres, but they’re really simple to make. A small batch is perfect for using up leftover mussels, while a large batch can be prepared up to the point of frying and frozen for later comsumption.
You’ll need about a cup of thick white sauce for half a dozen mussels. I make the sauce and, after removing the mussels from the shells, use a pair of kitchen scissors to chop them directly into the sauce.
Live mussels cook very quickly. After cleaning them and removing the beards, steam them in a cup or so of water over medium high heat. It takes about 5 minutes for them to open. If using for a soup or rice dish, you could flavor the water with wine or lemon and use the cooking broth for additional flavor. (See this post from The Kitchn for a good method)
Make sure to clean the shells after removing the mussels. You can use them over and over again if you like. This opens the possibility of using canned or frozen mussels instead of cooking them from fresh. This may be a consideration if you want to make a large batch or make them when fresh mussels aren’t available.
There are no fixed “rules” for making stuffed mussels. I’ve had them with plain– with just the mussels– and also with peppers and onions and shrimp. You just need to make sure the pieces are cut very fine. My friend Lola described her method for making tigres to me, and I used it as a guide when putting this recipe together.
- 6 mussels, cleaned and cooked
- 2 tablespoons minced onion (1/4 medium onion)
- 2 tablespoons minced red and/or green pepper (1/4 pepper...I used jarred roasted red peppers)
- ¼ cup flour
- ¼ cup olive oil (or a mix of olive oil and butter)
- salt and pepper to taste
- ¼ teaspoon smoky paprika
- pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
- 1 cup whole milk, cream or half and half (I used cream)
- bread crumbs, seasoned with a little dried parsley and garlic powder
- more oil for frying the tigres
- Saute the onions and peppers in the olive oil until the onions have softened and changed color.
- Stir in the flour and cook for a couple minutes until the flour begins to change color.
- Season with the salt, pepper, paprika and cayenne.
- Stir in the cream in batches and continue to stir as the sauce thickens.
- Use kitchen scissors to chop the mussels directly into the sauce.
- When nice and thick, remove the sauce from the heat and allow to cool while you clean up the mussel shells and prepare a plate of seasoned bread crumbs.
- Spoon a generous amount of sauce into empty mussel shells and press them, sauce side down, into the bread crumbs. Remove to a tray and repeat for the other mussels. You may have extra shells.
- At this point the mussels can be frozen on the tray. After they are frozen they can be placed in a freezer bag or other container. You don't have to thaw your tigres to cook them if they're frozen.
- To cook, estimate the height of the filling and add oil to the same depth in a skillet. Heat over medium high heat. Place the tigres shell side up in the oil and fry until the bread crumbs are a nice color and the the filling is heated through.