There really is nothing like fresh Mussels. Sadly, we can usually only by them frozen in these parts so when our local stores do have a supply of the fresh article on hand, my signature Steamed Mussels always follows.
I never follow a precise recipe when I steam mussels… each version is just slightly different than the one before… but, essentially, I steam them whole in butter, garlic, onion, white wine and parsley. I also occasionally add lemon zest, or even chopped tomato to the blend. Basically, my dish is pretty much a version of the famous ‘Moules Mariniere ’, and goes great with crusty bread to sop up the delicious broth that is created by the steaming process…
These are the mussels I purchased. The package was about two pounds which makes a nice light dish for two people. Ordinarily, I could eat two or more pounds myself but this amount is just right for a first course for my wife and me.
Mussels are often purchased with a fibrous beard protruding from the shells and, if you buy them this way, you need to grasp the beard firmly and pull it away. These ones were already de-bearded (or perhaps never had any to begin with).
When you buy live fresh mussels, it is a virtual certainty that a few will have expired and it is important you use them quickly. Pick through the batch and if any of the shells remain open after being tapped the little critter has died and should be discarded. Your nose will also help provide a clue to any that should be tossed.
Here you can see three that I decided ought to go. There were a couple of others that didn’t completely close but they smelled okay and I left them for the pot.
To steam this amount of mussels my way, you will need:
- 3 tbsp. Butter;
- ½ cup thinly sliced Onion;
- 2 -3 Garlic cloves, thinly sliced;
- 1/3 cup White Wine;
- 1 tbsp. Whole Peppercorns (I am using red ones here);
- 1/3 cup chopped Flat-Leaf Parsley.
The process here is very simple, but you need a pot with a tight fitting lid. Put the butter, wine and peppercorns into the pot and then start layering in the mussels, sprinkling over some of the onion, garlic and parsley on each layer. Don’t use all the parsley here but save some for garnishing later.
When you are ready, cover the pot and put it over a good high-flame. You want the oil to be vigorous so the bubbling wine and melted butter rises up and envelopes the mussels. Allow them to steam for about 5 to 10 minutes. When they are ready, transfer them to a serving bowl of bowl, pour over the broth and then garnish with the remaining parsley. Serve hot with bread.
By the way … if you encounter any mussels that haven’t opened up after steaming, these ones are definitely dead and should be tossed. I found two after cooking this batch…
Well, these mussels were lovely and sweet and the broth was about the best I have tasted yet. The only thing missing was enough toasted bread to mop it all up…