Steamed Mussels

A delicious and visually exotic dish – but fast and easy to prepare. It’s getting your hands on good fresh ones and storing them properly which can be a challenge.

Most mussels are bought from farmed stock, not harvested in the wild. But you CAN get wild mussels, so I’ll cheat a bit and include this on KillerNoms.

If you’re not experienced at buying, storing or preparing mussels, be sure to carefully read the notes at the bottom.

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Steamed Mussels Yum
Most of the weight is shell. Plan on 2 lbs per adult if served as the entree. If it's an appetizer, or well accompanied with salad and sides, maybe 3/4 lb per adult.
Cuisine Seafood/Fish
Cuisine Seafood/Fish
  1. Start with fresh, well chilled live mussels. No more than a few hours before cooking, lightly rinse and scrub under cold running water, pulling off visible beards and checking for damaged or partially open shells (there are always some). Discard all damaged mussels. If mussel is not completely closed, tap on a hard surface. If they close (a few seconds up to a minute) they are fine. If not they should be discarded — there are usually a few. Store chilled until ready to cook.
  2. Optionally brown garlic slices. An air fryer works well for this.
  3. Heat oil in a 6-8 quart stockpot or a giant fry pan (14-16").
  4. Sautee shallot, garlic and thyme over medium heat
  5. Turn heat to high, add mussels and give them a good stir/toss.
  6. Add wine, lemon juice, lemon zest, stock, red pepper flakes and jalapeno. Toss or stir.
  7. Cover and steam 5 minutes. No longer.
  8. Add tomato, parsley and butter. Mix/toss. Cover and steam one more minute.
  9. Removed from heat, transfer to bowls (or one large bowl if family style) and serve immediately. Optionally serve the liquid in bowls for dipping bread.
  10. Optionally save and freeze the leftover liquid. It is extremely flavorful. Great for things like ramen noodles, or just use your imagination.
Recipe Notes

Serving mussels: Serve with dipping bread. Best is sourdough baguette sliced on the bias and lightly toasted - just enough so they aren't too crumbly and still have a little "chew". Serve "family style" in a big bowl with a large ladle or tongs, or serve in individual bowls. If the former, provide small individual bowls of the broth for dipping. If the latter, be sure to get some broth in the bowl. Have a ready supply of napkins at hand, and a bowl for the shells.

Save the Leftovers! If there is much broth leftover in the pot, do not throw it away! It is pure gold. It does have a short shelf life, but if you ladle it (UNFILTERED!) into ziplock bags and squeeze out the air it will be fine in the freezer for weeks. I use it instead of water when making a packet of shrimp ramen. It. Is. Unbelievable. If you have leftover mussels, pop the meat out of the shells and freeze it for later use. Maybe with a remoulade on a mussel po' boy?

Buying mussels: Shop carefully, with an eye on quality as must as price. Before I stumbled on Costco mussels I'd had several less than satisfying experiences. In restaurants, they are stupid expensive for the tiny portions you are served - and often have a strong flavor I don't enjoy. Purchasing them fresh from seafood counters has also been expensive and with spotty quality. When I started seeing PEI (Prince Edward Island) farmed mussels at Costco in 5 lb bags for not much more than $2/lb, I gave them a try. I'm hooked. They are extremely clean, high quality, and well marked for freshness. Each bag is labeled with harvest date, wet stored date, packaged date, and sell-by date). Full disclosure, I am not a fan of strong-flavored mussels, but those used to wild-harvested mussels could find farmed mussels a little bland.

Storing mussels: Mussels should be alive when cooked. Once harvested the clock is ticking. They should be stored very chilled, with air circulating around them. They should not be submerged in water. Unless the store is only a few minutes from your house, I'd even bring a cooler and ice with you. Perfect storage is in the refrigerator in a mesh bag placed in an open container with a mesh or drilled bottom that drains, placed in something to catch the liquid. The bag should be covered with ice. This should give you a safe couple of days past the "sell by" date, max, but best is to delay buying them until as close as possible to when you plan to cook them. The fresher the better. Try to beat that "sell by" date by as many days as you can.

Prepping mussels: Inspect and clean your mussels shortly before cooking - no more than a few hours before. It takes me about 15 minutes for 5 lbs. Rinse in cold running water, feeling for cracks (discard), checking whether it appears fully closed (if not tap on hard surface - if it doesn't close within 30 seconds discard). Pop off any barnacles using something dull like a spoon or a butter knife. You can also lightly scrub, though that is less necessary for farmed mussels. If there is a "beard" (visible ropy strands protruding from near the hinge), remove it. Best is to grab the mussel in one hand, grab the beard with your other hand using something like a paper towel so it doesn't slip, and sharply jerk downwards at a 90° angle to the "lips", resulting in a clean tear that does not much disturb the live mussel inside. Pulling it straight out will remove the portion in the shell that is connected to the muscle, which can be stressful on the mussel and some may not survive as long. That is ok if you are cooking immediately.

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