Rather than pigs in a blanket, chicken wings, or spinach dip, baked mussels were the go-to dish in my household for any kind of potluck or gathering. Specifically, mussels topped with a creamy, umami-rich, masago-flecked mixture and baked to savory perfection: my mom’s version of “dynamite mussels,” a popular Japanese-inspired baked appetizer. My brother was particularly fond of the dish, requesting it from my mom every time he was home from college—and taking down almost half the pan by himself with some rice on the side (I don’t blame him).
Look for blanched, frozen New Zealand green-shell mussels on the half shell and vibrantly hued masago (aka capelin roe) at your local Asian grocery store. Plan ahead and thaw the mussels at room temperature for a few hours or overnight in the fridge—they tend to bake up watery if used straight from frozen. Fresh mussels aren’t ideal here, as you’d have to steam them in advance to get them open (plus, the frozen ones are, on the whole, more consistent in size and quality).
The topping is a simple-but-punchy combination of mayo (don’t use low-fat—we want that rich, robust flavor), fish roe, sriracha, and scallions, which makes for a knockout condiment with balance, depth, and just the right amount of saltiness. After the mixture is spooned on top, the mussels are baked until tender, with a sunset-orange hue. Intensely flavorful and fun to eat, these baked mussels are everything I want in a bite-size appetizer. As my mom puts it, “You can’t go wrong with the recipe.” —Joy Cho
(2-pound) package (about 28 count) of New Zealand greenshell mussels on the half shell, thawed if frozen
masago (capelin roe)
Steamed rice, for serving
Heat the oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed sheet pan with aluminum foil. Arrange the mussels, facing up, on the pan (don’t be afraid to nestle them right next to each other).
In a medium bowl, mix the mayo, roe, and sriracha until combined. Mix in the scallions. Spoon about 1 scant tablespoon of the mayo mixture on top of each mussel.
Bake the mussels for 15 minutes, or until the tops look set, puffed slightly, and darker in color. Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes before serving with rice.
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