How to prepare Mussels

molluscs, mussels
Image by RitaE from Pixabay

Mussels or moules as the french call them are oval molluscs which have bluey black shells. When cooked they have a delicious orange-red flesh. Because of their taste they are often known as the poor-man’s oyster.

Scrubbing and Cleaning Mussels

Tip the mussels into the sink or a large bowl of cold water.  Swirl them around with your hands to wash them thoroughly. Use a small sharp knife to scrape off any barnacles attached to the shells. Brush the shells if needs be to remove any attached material using a wire brush. Discard any mussels with broken shells. Wash the mussels again because the water will contain dirt and sand.

Remove the beards and other tufts of hair by pulling them off using a knife to help you. Most need a strong tug. The beard is the brown wispy bit hanging out of the join in the shells. Not all mussels will have beards.

If any mussels are open, tap them sharply against the side of the sink, worktop or with a knife. If they don’t close, discard them, then they are dead and not edible.

Some chefs add flour to the soaking water because the theory is that they feed on the flour and get fatter and more succulent. They are also getting rid of any sand in the process which makes them cleaner. According to Julia Childs you use about 40grams of flour in 4 litres of water, beating the flour with the water to mix thoroughly.

A couple of excellent recipes using steamed mussels come to mind. The first is a classic technique using white wine, garlic and shallots. The other is a cider-steamed base which adds a slightly different flavour to the broth. The white wine in the first is replaced with cider in the other. Both recipes are similar Not everyone likes garlic so don’t add if it isn’t needed.

[1] Steamed Mussels in a White Wine, Garlic and Shallot Broth

Ingredients:

  • 1kg mussels, in shells
  • 100g salted butter
  • medium glass white wine
  • 5 chopped cloves of garlic
  • 1 – 2 shallot, finely chopped
  • chopped parsley, to serve
  • chili flakes or chopped chili (optional)

Preparation:

  • Melt butter over medium heat in a large shallow skillet. Add shallots, garlic, and chili. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes or until the garlic is fragrant and the shallots begin to soften.
  • Add wine and increase the heat to a medium-high to bring to a simmer.
  • Add mussels, cover with a lid, and let the mussels steam for 5-7 minutes or until they have opened up. Add parsley as required.

[2] Steamed Mussels in a Cider, Shallot, Chopped Onion and Garlic Broth

The cider is best dry rather than sweet or medium-sweet even.

Ingredients:

  • 1kg mussels, in shells
  • 100g salted butter
  • 200ml dry cider
  • 5 chopped cloves of garlic
  • 1 – 2 shallot, finely chopped
  • chopped parsley, to serve
  • 3 chopped spring onions
  • chili flakes or chopped chili (optional)

Preparation:

  • Melt butter over medium heat in a large shallow skillet. Add shallots, garlic, the chopped onions and chili. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes or until the garlic is fragrant and the shallots begin to soften.
  • Add wine and increase the heat to a medium-high to bring to a simmer.
  • Add mussels, cover with a lid, and let them steam for 5-7 minutes or until they have opened up.
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