Steamed Mussels

A delicious and visually exotic dish – but really easy to prepare. It’s getting your hands on high quality fresh mussels which can be a challenge.

Most mussels are bought from farmed stock, not wild-harvested. 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. It may differ among species but blue mussels have a little under 20% meat weight to live weight.
Cuisine Seafood/Fish
Servings
lbs
Ingredients
  • 5 lbs mussels — Costco often has 5# bags of farmed PEI blue mussels for about $12. Sweet, tender, mild, and no grit. Maybe too mild for some folks who prefer a stronger hint of the sea.
  • 4 cloves sliced or minced fresh garlic — Minced is ok, but thin sliced, or shaved using a mini-mandolin is a great presentation, especially if lightly coated in fat and browned in an air fryer prior to sautéeing.
  • 2 Whole shallots — Minced, or sliced like the garlic, but not browned.
  • 5 sprigs thyme — Maybe more. Stripped off of stem.
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine — e.g. Sauvignon Blanc. No need to get fancy, 2 Buck Chuck is fine.
  • 2 lemons — zested and juiced
  • 1 cup Stock (seafood, or chicken) — Home-made if at all possible. Even the best commercial stock is thin and bland compared to any proper home-made stock. Optionally salted to taste.
  • 2 fresh jalapeno pepper — Optional. Seeded and diced fine. Skip if you don't like heat.
  • 1 big pinch crushed red pepper flakes — You really shouldn't skip this. It does not add much heat and looks nice.
  • 1 large tomato, seeded and diced — Homegrown or farmers market if possible. Double if small tomatoes.
  • 1/2 cup flat-leaf (italian) parsley — chopped fresh
  • 2 Tbsp butter
Cuisine Seafood/Fish
Servings
lbs
Ingredients
  • 5 lbs mussels — Costco often has 5# bags of farmed PEI blue mussels for about $12. Sweet, tender, mild, and no grit. Maybe too mild for some folks who prefer a stronger hint of the sea.
  • 4 cloves sliced or minced fresh garlic — Minced is ok, but thin sliced, or shaved using a mini-mandolin is a great presentation, especially if lightly coated in fat and browned in an air fryer prior to sautéeing.
  • 2 Whole shallots — Minced, or sliced like the garlic, but not browned.
  • 5 sprigs thyme — Maybe more. Stripped off of stem.
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine — e.g. Sauvignon Blanc. No need to get fancy, 2 Buck Chuck is fine.
  • 2 lemons — zested and juiced
  • 1 cup Stock (seafood, or chicken) — Home-made if at all possible. Even the best commercial stock is thin and bland compared to any proper home-made stock. Optionally salted to taste.
  • 2 fresh jalapeno pepper — Optional. Seeded and diced fine. Skip if you don't like heat.
  • 1 big pinch crushed red pepper flakes — You really shouldn't skip this. It does not add much heat and looks nice.
  • 1 large tomato, seeded and diced — Homegrown or farmers market if possible. Double if small tomatoes.
  • 1/2 cup flat-leaf (italian) parsley — chopped fresh
  • 2 Tbsp butter
Instructions
  1. 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 the 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. DO NOT store them sealed in a bag - they are alive and still need air.
  2. Optionally oil and brown garlic slices. An air fryer works great, but an oven will do.
  3. Heat just enough olive oil or clarified butter to cover the bottom of a large stockpot or a giant fry pan (14-16"). A 14" pan is barely big enough for 5# of mussels.
  4. Sautee shallot, garlic and thyme over medium heat
  5. Turn heat to high, add mussels and quickly give them a good stir. Or even a toss if you're a show-off and someone else has to clean the range.
  6. Add stock, wine, lemon juice, lemon zest, red pepper flakes and jalapeno. Toss or stir.
  7. Cover and steam 5 minutes. No longer.
  8. Add tomato, parsley and butter. Toss or stir. Cover and steam one more minute.
  9. Remove from heat, transfer to bowls (or one large bowl if family style) and serve immediately. Optionally serve sides of the liquid in ramekins or small bowls for dipping bread.
  10. Optionally save and freeze any leftover liquid in 1 cup portions. Think of it as mussel stock. It is very flavorful, and a great substitute for water in things like ramen noodles. You could strain it first, but leaving the solids in leaves you the option to decide later whether to leave in the chunky bits. I like them left in.
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 tongs, or serve in individual bowls. Have a ready supply of napkins, 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 for a mussel po' boy with a remoulade?

Buying mussels: Shop carefully, with an eye on quality as much 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 over $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 folks used to wild-harvested mussels might find the farmed ones to be 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. Even better, the bag can be covered with crushed 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 them 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.

View online at KillerNoms.com/mussels

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