Thursday, April 19, 2012



I thought I would share with you one of my very favorite foods today.  I love mussels.  It is right up there in my top favorite foods if not my favorite.

Mussels used to be difficult to prepare because they needed to be cleaned, debearded, and scrubbed. Now you can buy them precleaned, with the beards off; just rinse and use.   Make sure you double check each one though.

In small town Maquoketa, Iowa, I have to travel to Davenport and buy frozen mussels in a freezer department making me very jealous of people who live near the ocean and can get them fresh at a market.  But we in Iowa have fresh foods that people on the ocean would love also and I’m not giving up my living in Iowa and my 4 seasons. 

The recipes below are for those people who are blessed and can buy them fresh. These recipes will talk about cleaning fresh mussels.  I have never had to clean mine; however, I do look over the mussels carefully discarding any open mussels and those with broken shells before cooking, and I discard the mussels that aren't open after cooking.

Garlic Mussels

6 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
½ teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1½ cups dry white wine
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil; cook spaghetti pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, place mussels in a colander; pick over them to remove any opened mussels; rinse well and set aside.

In large stockpot big enough to hold the mussels, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add garlic; cook and stir until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add red bell pepper; cook and stir for 3 to 4 minutes, until crisp-tender. Sprinkle with oregano and pour wine into pot; bring to a boil. Add salt and pepper, then add mussels.

Cover pot and turn heat to medium-low. Cook, shaking pan frequently, for 4 to 7 minutes or until all mussels open. (Discard any mussels that do not open.) Remove mussels and bell peppers from pot and place in serving bowl.

Strain liquid and pour half over mussels. Combine remaining liquid with cooked and drained spaghetti; serve immediately with the mussels.

Classic French Mussels

This is my take on the classic recipe for French steamed mussels -- you know, the big bowl of mussels bathed in white wine, butter and garlic? It's both easy and quick, but like all such recipes, the quality of the ingredients matters a lot. Buy the best mussels and good sweet butter and use a white wine you'd drink yourself. Figure on a pound of mussels per person for a main course; this recipe serves 2.

2 lb live mussels (I have to use frozen)
1 T unsalted butter
3/4 cup white wine
2 chopped scallions or 1 chopped shallot
2 cloves chopped garlic

Scrub and debeard the mussels. The "beard" is the fibrous hairy thing hanging from one side of the tasty bivalve. Pull it off with a side-to-side motion.

In case you are wondering, a mussel is alive if it reacts. Its shell should be closed. If it is open, sit the mussel on the kitchen counter for a bit. It may close when you are not looking.

Heat the butter over medium-high heat in a large, wide-bottomed pot with a lid; I use a Dutch oven. Sauté the shallot or green onion until it is soft but not browned. Add the garlic cloves.

Add the decent white wine of your choice, and bring it to a boil. Add the mussels in one layer if possible.
Cover the pot and let the mussels steam for 3-8 minutes. After three minutes, check the mussels; many should be open (longer if they are frozen). You want them all open, but some will do this faster than others.

As soon as most of the mussels are open, turn off the heat.  Cover for a minute while you prepare bowls and plates.

Spoon out plenty of mussels and broth, which should be briny enough to not need any more salt. Throw out any mussels that did not open.

Serve with crusty bread and an extra bowl for the shells.

Belgian Ale-Braised Mussels

2 pounds mussels
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup diced smoked country ham (about 4 ounces)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 shallot, minced
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 (12-ounce) bottle Belgian-style ale
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
Juice of 1 lemon
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 crusty baguette, cut into 1-inch-wide slices

Under cool water, scrub each mussel's shell with a stiff-bristled brush. Remove the beard, which connects the mussel to rocks in the water. Grab the fibers with your fingers and pull them out, tugging toward the hinged point of the shell.

In a medium-size saucepan or skillet, heat the oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat. After the butter melts, add the ham and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until crispy and the fat has rendered.

Add the garlic, shallot, and thyme and cook in the rendered fat over medium-low heat for about 2 minutes, or until soft. Add the mussels, stir to coat with the vegetables and pan juices, and cook for about 1 minute.
Add the beer of your choice, cover the pan, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, until all the mussels open. (Discard any that do not open.)

Add the parsley, tarragon, basil, lemon juice, and the remaining tablespoon of butter. Toss to distribute the herbs and lemon juice and allow the butter time to melt. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Using a slotted spoon, serve them in a large bowl or divide the mussels evenly among 4 smaller bowls. Pour the broth from the pan over the mussels, and serve with the bread.

Beer Battered Mussels

Dipping Sauce

5 fl. oz mayonnaise
3 1/2 fl. oz beer
3 tbsp coarse-grained mustard
1 tsp runny honey
3 tbsp finely chopped cilantro/ coriander
Juice 1 lime
1/2 red chili, de-seeded and finely minced
1 clove garlic, crushed


2 1/4 lbs mussels, scrubbed & de-bearded
10 fl. oz very cold beer or lager
8oz self raising flour
Salt & ground black pepper
Peanut oil for deep frying
1 oz cornstarch

First make the dipping sauces: mix together the mayonnaise and beer. Divide this mixture between two bowls.

To one, mix in the coarse-grained mustard and honey. To the other, add the coriander, lime, chili and garlic. Taste both for seasoning. Set aside.

Place the mussels in a large, lidded saucepan with a few tablespoons of water.

Steam over a high heat until the mussels have opened. Discard any that remain closed.
Drain in a colander, then pick the meat from the shells, set aside.

Sift the self-raising flour into a large bowl. Season well with salt and pepper. Start whisking in the beer until you have a batter the consistency of thick cream.

Heat the oil in a deep fat fryer or large pan. Be careful not to fill more than one third full. Heat to 360 F. or until a cube of bread sizzles and turns golden in 30 seconds.

Dry the mussels carefully on kitchen towel then dredge with sifted cornstarch. Shake off the excess corn starch then dip into the beer batter allowing the excess batter to drip off.

Fry in batches of around 10 until golden brown (about 1-2 minutes). Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain.

Serve immediately with dipping sauces.

Olive Garden Mussels Di Napoli

When ever I go to the Olive Garden I love to order these as an appetizer. 

2 lbs mussels
1 cup white wine
1/2 cup salted butter
5 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
In a non-stick pan gently cooking the garlic together with the olive oil until the garlic gets soft and turns translucent.  Add mussels (which have been cleaned, debearded and picked over, if necessary), wine and butter.
Cover the pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Mussels are cooked when all shells are open (5 to 7 minutes). Discard any that do not open.
Add all remaining ingredients, stir carefully (mussels will easily dislodge from their shells) and simmer gently on low for approximately two minutes.
Serve in bowls with plenty of bread to soak up the delicious juices!

Mussels in Black Bean Sauce

If I go for Chinese, I’m always hoping for mussels in black bean sauce to be on the buffet or menu.

3 tbsp peanut oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 slices ginger root, minced
2 tbsp black bean sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
3 lb mussels, scrubbed and bearded
2 spring onions (scallions), chopped

Heat the oil and fry the garlic and ginger for 30 seconds. Add the black bean sauce and soy sauce and fry for 10 seconds.

Add the mussels, cover and cook for about 6 minutes until the mussels have opened. Discard any that remain closed.

Transfer to a warmed serving dish and serve sprinkled with spring onions.

Try them if you have not had them.  I love almost all sea food so love them.  Hope you will too.

Be happy and may God bless  you and yours.  

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