Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Flex Your Mussels

My delight has always been fresh seafood. And, like http://bizarre-blog.travelchannel.com/ by Andrew Zimmern and http://anthony-bourdain-blog.travelchannel.com/?fbid=I3Q7Nr6ykI9 by Anthony Bourdain, I will try just about anything from the sea. My most favorite item just below Calamari would be Mussels. My very 1st experience with them was in my beloved city of San Francisco. So allow me to share with you how to select, prepare, cook, and serve Mussels.

Varieties: The blue mussels native to the Pacific Northwest may be wild-gathered or farmed. You can tell them apart because wild mussels are rough, while farm-raised muscles have a clean, smooth shell. Green mussels from New Zealand are larger. Mussels are sold live, frozen whole, as frozen or canned meat, sometimes smoked.

Buying and storing tips:

Quality mussels are easy to recognize. Fresh mussels smell clean, like the ocean, and the shells of live mussels are tightly closed. If the mussel is slightly open (no more than 1/4-inch), tap the shell, and a healthy mussel will close it within 30 seconds. Refrigerate mussels in a bowl, and cover with a damp towel. Never store mussels in water or in an airtight container—either method will kill them. Mussels should be cooked as soon as possible, but keep for up to a week. To thaw, place mussels in refrigerator overnight. To thaw more quickly, wrap mussels in waterproof plastic and place in a sink with cool running water, allowing about 30 minutes per pound.

Preparation Types:
Inspect mussels to make sure they are tightly closed. Just before cooking, clean wild mussels by scrubbing with a stiff brush and pulling off the beard with a quick tug. Cultivated mussels need only be rinsed in cold water. To remove meat, either steam open or pry shells open and pick out meat.

Steaming: Place 1/4-inch water (wine and seasoning optional) in the bottom of a large pan, and add mussels. Bring water to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until shells open (four to five minutes). Throw away mussels that don’t open. Serve mussels in bowls with broth.

Pan-frying: (this is for the Mussel meat ONLY) Heat frying pan, then add butter or oil. Add mussel meat and sauté until brown, about two to three minute.

Additional Recipe I use more often than not:


2 cloves garlic
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the bread
2 shallots, coarsely chopped
2 cups white wine
2 pounds cultivated mussels, scrubbed
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon leaves

1 baguette, halved lengthwises


Heat grill to high. Sprinkle garlic with a pinch of salt and, with the flat side of a large knife, mash and smear the garlic to a coarse paste. Heat the oil in a stockpot on the grates of the grill, add the shallots and garlic and cook until shallots soften. Add the wine, bring to a boil and stir in the mussels. Cover the pot and cook the mussels until all of them have opened, about 6 to 8 minutes, discard any that do not open.

Remove the mussels with a slotted spoon to a large bowl. Bring the cooking liquid to a simmer and whisk in the butter. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and stir in the tarragon. Pour the mixture over the mussels and serve immediately with grilled bread.

Brush cut side of baguette with oil, season with salt and pepper and grill, cut side down until lightly golden brown.


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