“Let the dishes be exceedingly choice, but few in number: and the wines of the highest quality each in its degree.” Brillat-Savarin, Le Physiologie du goût, 1825
Mussels are so underrated and underappreciated. These amazing molluscs may seem like restaurant food only-but they’re not.
Don’t let them intimidate you-you can cook them at home for an amazing seafood meal. And once you know how to cook mussels, you’ll also know how to cook clams and other shellfish as well.
Mussels are cheap, fast and easy to prepare. Once you know how to make them, you’ll ask yourself why you didn’t enjoy these at home before. And with farm-raised mussels, the boring tasks of scrubbing and removing the “beard” is done for you.
Mussels are a classic french bistro food, and rightly so. Slightly briny and salty, the flavor of fresh mussels is straight from the sea. Not only are they a classic and delicious dish, but they are loaded in healthy nutrients. Mussels are especially rich in vitamin B-12, as well as iron, phosphorous, zinc and manganese. Vegetarians (of the non-strict variety) will benefit from the vitamin B-12 and iron, as it’s sometimes hard to find adequate sources in a vegetarian diet. Phosphorous benefits the immune system and along with manganese, contributes to healthy bones and skeletal system. Zinc is good for the immune and digestive system. Finally, mussels are full of protein. Now that you know just how good they are for you, let’s get to making this classic, nutritious food.
Make sure your mussels are fresh. Farmed mussels come with tags that clearly show when they were harvested and where they are from. Be sure and buy your mussels from a reputable market or fish market as fresh as possible. To store mussels, you want to keep them cool in your refrigerator, and remove them only when you are ready to wash and prepare them. Use fresh mussels as soon as possible. Most farmed mussels need to be used within 1-2 days of purchase.
Any already open mussels should close up if squeezed a few times-if they don’t just toss them out. Just before cooking, rinse the mussels under fresh water to remove any sand or debris. I would recommend removing any unusable mussels directly to your outside trash can, otherwise you will have some serious fishy smells in your kitchen.
Mussels are so easy to cook, it’s basically a quick steaming and they’re done. This recipe is a pretty simple starter, and there are so many variations that can be used to prepare mussels. Beer instead of white wine. Different herbs. Tomatoes. Spicy or just savory. Mussels are easy to combine with many different flavors.
This basic recipe will teach the basics of preparing and cooking mussels, then it’s up to you to take it from there. But you should no longer be intimidated about cooking mussels once you’ve prepared this recipe. You’ll be surprised at just how easy it is.
To accompany the mussels and soak up the delicious, buttery, garlicky, wine infused rich mussel broth, you will definitely need some good quality bread.
Get a baguette or quality country loaf of a hearty bread with a crackly crust. Cut it in thick slices and toast it just before serving. Munch on it a little as you work your way down through the bowl of mussels. There is not a lot of meat in most farmed mussels, but depending on the type, some have more than others. So once you get down close to the bottom, use that crunchy, golden bread to absorb the delicious broth.
If there are any mussels that remain unopened after cooking, be sure to not eat them, just toss them out!
Instead of fresh garlic, you could use some of our garlic confit in this recipe. As well, if you want to sweeten the dish up a bit, some oven roasted tomatoes would add another flavor dimension to this dish! If you want to make this a real seafood meal, you could try our Shrimp and Hearts of Palm Salad with this dish or just a simple green salad.
If you try this recipe, let us know by leaving a comment, rating it, and tagging a photo #thestraightdish on Instagram. Cheers, friends!
- 5 pounds fresh mussels
- 4 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 each shallots finely chopped
- 5 cloves garlic or garlic confit chopped
- 5 sprigs fresh thyme 1 teaspoon if using dried
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- 1.5 cups dry white wine
Wash and rinse mussels thoroughly in cold water in a large bowl. Drain and keep cool.
Heat a large, deep pan or dutch oven with a lid to medium low, add butter and melt.
Add shallots, allow to cook 5 minutes or until pale and translucent. Then add garlic, cook 30 seconds to 1 minute, then add fresh thyme, mustard and white wine. Stir to combine.
Add mussels, cover pan and turn heat to high. Allow to cook until steam is rapidly escaping from under lid. Cook 30 seconds more after steam escapes.
Remove lid and most if not all mussels should be opened.
Serve in deep bowls, adding some broth to each bowl. Accompany with crusty bread on side.