Yesterday, I bought a pound of mussels at Giant for $5.99. Wow. That’s cheap, considering how much food costs these days. It’s more than enough to feed two people, too.
The mild, buttery flavor of mussels makes them extremely versatile. They can be paired with a myriad of ingredients, many of which you probably already have in your kitchen. Canned tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, white wine, beer, chicken stock, lemon juice are just a few of the items you can use.
It takes a little effort to clean mussels, but it’s really not that bad. Here’s how I do it: dump them into a colander/strainer and rinse thoroughly in cold water. Then, check each mussel carefully, discarding any with broken or open shells (they could be spoiled). This next step is important: make sure to remove any thread-like fibers, or the beard. The beard peeks out from the shell and is rough to the touch. In the wild, mussels use the beard to anchor themselves to rocks underwater, protecting themselves from crashing waves. That’s great, but you don’t want to eat that. Remove the beard by gripping the fibers with your fingers and pulling them until they release from the shell. Keep in mind, you may have to put some “mussel” into it (That was painfully punny wasn’t it?).
Cooking mussels is almost fail proof. Covering the mussels with a lid creates steam inside the pan, helping them to cook. The shells will open and you should see the mussels detach themselves a little, but not completely. Lift up the lid while they’re cooking and take a peek. When cooked, the mussels should be firm, but still a little chewy.
Try my recipe below. The spiciness of Old Bay combined with the acidity of tomatoes is a winner here. You’ve also got subtle sweet and bitter flavors contributed by the white wine and olive oil. I like to serve mine with crostini, or toasted, thinly sliced baguette. It’s a gourmet, simple meal that’s pretty easy on the wallet, too!
Old Bay Mussels with White Wine, Olive Oil, Fresh Tomatoes and Parsley
• 1 pound mussels (store them on ice in your refrigerator)
• 6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
• 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1-2 cups white wine
• 2 vine ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
• 2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
• Salt and pepper
• Chopped or chiffinaded parsley, to garnish
1. Clean mussels thoroughly.
2. Peel and smash garlic cloves, using the flat side of your knife or the palm of your hand.
3. Core and chop tomatoes roughly.
4. Pick parsley leaves and chop or chiffonade (roll up a small pile and slice thinly with your knife).
1. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add crushed garlic cloves and sauté over medium-high until browned.
2. Add chopped tomatoes, Old Bay and a pinch of salt and pepper. Toss to combine the ingredients.
3. Add the mussels and white wine. Cover with a good lid and let the mussels cook. Pour the other tablespoon of olive oil over the mussels after about a minute and cover again.
4. Remove from heat when the shells open and the mussels have detached themselves a little from inside the shells.
5. Serve with crostini (thinly sliced baguette rubbed with olive oil, salt and pepper and toasted at 400 degrees until golden) and enjoy. Make sure to scoop up some of the broth, either with a spoon or piece of crostini!