When Mr. Foodie first met me, he had yet to discover the pleasure of eating oysters, crab legs, and mussels. Imagine my delight when he took to shellfish like champ. Now whenever he wants to surprise me or celebrate something, he comes home with snow crab leg clusters and some dry bubbly #yesplease. Until recently, however, he had only ever had mussels at various restaurants even though I’m constantly bragging about my homemade version every time we see them on a menu.
Mussels are incredibly easy to make and wonderfully open to a diversity of preparations. Mussels will adopt the flavors of whatever they’re cooked in, so you can have Thai mussels one night and applewood-smoked bacon the next. My favorite flavor profile for mussels is white wine, butter, garlic, and spicy sausage. First of all, butter + shellfish = heaven. Everyone knows that. Second, I like the balance of this prep. The acid of the wine cuts the richness of the butter and the sausage, and the heat (which you can also accomplish with red pepper flakes if you want to be sausage-free) sings in this dish.
The first time I had mussels could not have been more perfect. A college friend and I were missing our time studying abroad in Europe, so we found a European-style pub in D.C. called Granville Moore’s on H St. They served Belgian beer, the most delicious french fries, and big, brothy bowls of mussels. I sopped up every drop of that broth with their crusty bread and had to stop myself from ordering a second bowl.
How to Cook Mussels
Homemade mussels is the kind of dish that will make you seem like a fancy-pants chef, but only you will know how incredibly easy this dish is to make. The only challenge with mussels is you pretty much have to use them the day you buy them. Believe me, they’re worth the day-of trip to the fish counter. If your mussels have any barnacles or beards on them, you’ll need to do a little more work to prepare them (see this guide for scrubbing and debearding). Lucky me – I live near a Wegmans and they always have scrubbed, debearded mussels ready to grab when the mood for these delicious little creatures strikes. Once your mussels are ready to go, all you need to do is melt some butter, throw in some chopped garlic, cook a bit before adding some white wine (crisp/dry is my favorite for this prep), and add the mussels. Secure the pan with a tight lid and let the mussels cook in the sauce for around 5 minutes – or until almost all the mussels have opened up. Discard any that don’t open. In the meantime, crumble and cook spicy sausage of your choice. Sprinkle the cooked sausage over the mussels before ladling some mussels and broth into bowls. Serve with crusty bread (toasted or not as you prefer).
How to Eat Mussels
The first time I had mussels, my friend showed me how to use an empty mussel shell as a pinching tool to grab the meat out of other shells and to scoop up the delicious broth for slurping. Of course you are more than welcome to use a small fork to dislodge the mussel meat and a proper spoon for sipping, but where’s the fun in that?! Just be sure to keep a large empty bowl on the table for your guests to discard their empty shells. Serving them with bread to soak up the broth is traditional, but you can also put mussels over anything – pasta, rice, grains.
When to Eat Mussels
Good news for all ya’ll – peak mussels season is between October and March! It’s possible that you’re picturing this dish as more of a summer bounty, but what if I told you that Fall is a better season for many types of shellfish? It is more likely to be better tasting and less expensive. Mussels are honestly great for a quick dinner and for entertaining (remember, you’re a fancy-pants chef after making this) – they are less labor-intensive and messy than crab legs, not as fussy as scallops, and require less prep than oysters.
Plus your partner will stare dreamily over his steaming bowl of mussels with love and gratitude in his eyes, making your whole week better 🙂
What fall seafood dishes do you normally make? Please share with us!