Frozen mussels in white wine recipes are sold fresh the shells. Buy them from a reliable fish market or gather them fresh only when in season in your particular area. (They could be toxic if eaten out of season.)
Mussels must be alive when cooked, the shells un-broken and tightly closed, or they should close if touched. Rinse thoroughly under running cold water to remove all sand. Discard any that remain open. Scrub clean with a stiff metal brush, scraping off any loose barnacles with a knife. With shears, clip off beards.
To steam mussels, place them in a large pot in a small amount of boiling water. Tightly cover the pot and simmer over medium heat 5 to 10 minutes until all the shells open up. Discard any unopened shells.
These days, most mussels have already been partially cleaned by the time they reach the fishmonger, reducing the amount fo work to be done at home, though by no means eliminating it.
A mouthful of grit in an otherwise perfectly cooked dish of mussels is seriously unpleasant and ruins the whole thing. Besides, cleaning them gives you a chance to check that they are all in good condition.
Tip the mussels into the sink and cover with plenty of cold water. One by one, scrape away the barnacles and hairy ‘beard’ (this is the byssus, which attaches the living mussel to the post, rope, or rock it grows on) and scrub.
Throw away any that refuse to close when tapped firmly, or any that are cracked. Discard, too, any that feel abnormally heavy; they are probably filled with sand. Drain, rinse at least once more, if not twice for good measure.
Never leave them sitting in freshwater fish too long or it will kill them. Some people claim that the best route to fat little mussels is to feed them overnight on a handful of oatmeal, in a bucket of cold water.
But too many mussels drown (yes, honestly, it can happen) and are seen in the morning gaping open and beyond saving. A waste of time, mussels, and oatmeal. Save it for porridge.
This is the classic way to open mussels. Pour 1 cm (½ inch) of water or other cooking liquid (e.g. white wine) into a wide, large pan. Add chopped onion, garlic, herbs, or any other flavorings. Bring up to the boil. Tip in the mussels, cover tightly and shake over high heat for a couple of minutes.
Remove those mussels that have opened
Cover again and shake for a minute or two longer, or until the vast majority have opened. Discard any that remain steadfastly closed. The cooking liquor will probably be incorporated into the dish you are using but, if not, don’t waste it. It makes a marvelous stock for fish sauces and soups.
There’s always some grit hanging around in it so either strain it through a sieve lined with muslin (or a coffee filter) or tip it into a bowl, leave to settle, and then carefully pour off the liquor, leaving the grit behind in the bowl.
Freeze, if you are not using it straight away. If you fancy a change, try steaming the mussels open in several batches, or spread them out on a baking tray and give them a blast of heat in a hot oven or under the grill. Keep dry cooking methods as brief as possible if the mussels are not to dry out.
- 900g (2 lb) fresh mussels
- 1 small onion, skinned and finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, skinned and crushed
- 75ml (5 tbsp) dry white wine
- 75 ml (5 tbsp) fish stock or water
- 30 ml (2 tbsp) chopped fresh parsley
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- To clean the mussels, put them in a sink or bowl and scrub thoroughly with a hard brush. Wash them in several changes of water.
- Scrape off any ‘beards, or tufts protruding from the shells. Discard any damaged mussels or any that do not close when tapped with a knife.
- Put the onion, garlic, wine, stock, and mussels in a large bowl. Cover and cook on HIGH for 3-5 minutes or until all the mussels have opened, removing the mussels on the top as they open and shaking the bowl occasionally. Discard any mussels that have not opened.
- Pile the mussels in a warmed serving dish. Stir the parsley into the liquid remaining in the bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour over the mussels and serve immediately with lots of crusty bread.
- Begin 1¼ hours ahead
- 4 servings
- 174 cals per serving
- Good source of calcium, iron
- 3 pounds mussels (about 5 to 6 dozen)
- butter or margarine
- 3 shallots, minced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- ½ cup dry white wine
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- Discard any mussels that remain open when tapped with fingers. Clean and remove beards.
- In 5-quart saucepot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, in 2 tablespoons hot butter or margarine, cook shallots, and garlic 1-minute stirring. Add wine and mussels; sprinkle mussels with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer 6 to 8 minutes until shells open, stirring occasionally.
- With a slotted spoon, remove mussels to a bowl. (Discard any that remain unopened). Without disturbing sediment in the bottom of the saucepot, pour the stock into a 1 ½-quart saucepan; heat.
- Meanwhile, discard halves of mussel shells to which meat is not attached. Arrange mussels in shells, open side up, in soup plates. Into hot stock, stir 1 tablespoon butter or margarine; pour over mussels; sprinkle servings with parsley.
Cooking mussels: Simmer 6 to 8 minutes until shells open; remove to a bowl.
Arranging shells in plates: Place mussels in half-shells, open side up.