3 Mouthwatering Ideas For Cooking Mussels

One of the great things about cooking mussels is that it is simple to do. There are various ways to go about cooking mussels, just as there are various ways to go about cooking any seafood. For example, they can be:

  • Steamed
  • Pan fried
  • Deep fried
  • Baked
  • Grilled

The key to success lies more in the added ingredients you choose than in the cooking method involved. About the only way to ruin mussels is to cook them too long. If that happens, they tend to get somewhat rubbery, and dinner guests generally don’t care for rubbery food.

Steaming the mussels is the best and easiest approach, at least until you know what you are doing. If you’re going to steam mussels, plan on 5 minutes maximum to get the job done.

There are usually two types of mussels on the market – wild mussels and farm mussels. The wild mussels will usually still have their beards attached. The beards are what the mussels use to hang on to  whatever they are growing on. The beards can usually be yanked off, or cut off with a sharp knife.

Wild mussels sometimes need to be scrubbed to remove barnacles, sand, or other stuff that may be attached to the shell. This usually isn’t a problem with farm mussels. All you generally have to do is rinse them in cold water.

Good Mussels vs. Bad Mussels

As a general rule:

  • Mussels with broken shells should be discarded
  • Mussels which do not open up when cooked should also be thrown out

All you need to cook or steam mussels is water, but most chefs prefer using white wine or a wine-water mix. It doesn’t take too much water or wine to do the job since mussels carry  their own liquid with them, and it spills out when their shells open. This liquid, or broth, can be quite salty, so don’t add any salt.

Here are 3 ways of cooking mussels, guaranteed to have your guests asking for more.

Pan Steamed Mussels With Garlic

Mussels can be cooked in a pan with butter (or if you prefer, olive oil), and some chopped or minced garlic. Butter, garlic and mussels make a very pleasant tasting combination.

1. The secret is to start with the butter and garlic, heating the garlic until it turns light brown or tan. Dark brown isn’t good, it means you’ve overcooked the garlic.
2. The mussels are then placed in the pan and swished around to coat them with the butter-garlic mix.
3. Add some white wine, just barely enough to cover the mussels.
4. Place a lid on the pan and let the mussels steam for 5 minutes.
5. Serve the  cooked mussels with their sauce.

The mussels, together with bread, is a great appetizer. A variation is to add a little lemon juice to the butter and garlic.

Thai Steamed Mussels

Once you’ve mastered the art of pan-steamed mussels, try moving on to something a bit more exotic, Thai Steamed Mussels. There are a few more ingredients involved but nothing you can’t handle, and the results are well worth the extra effort.

Besides the fresh mussels, you’ll need:

  • Fresh lime juice
  • Dry white wine
  • Unsweetened coconut milk (to be used as the steaming liquid)

Use equal parts of lime juice and wine, adding roughly three times as much coconut milk. A half-tablespoon each of Thai red curry, minced garlic, and sugar together with a couple of teaspoons of Asian fish sauce completes the recipe. Once the mussels have been steamed, again for about 5 minutes, they can be served. Tossing the steamed mussels with chopped cilantro will add to your eating pleasure.

Cioppino

You really shouldn’t be cooking too much seafood, especially shellfish, without trying this next dish, which is a lot of people’s favorite. It’s Cioppino, a seafood stew.

When you cook up a batch of Cioppino, you are given the chance to be a little creative as you can select your choice of fish or shellfish and don’t have to include seafood you might not like. Cioppino usually contains:

  • Mussels
  • Clams
  • Shrimp
  • Scallop
  • Crab Meat

All still in the shell.

1. Start by putting butter in a crock pot, and adding onions, garlic, and if you wish, parsley. This mix is cooked slowly until the onions have cooked.
2. Once cooked, add tomato slices or quarters, chicken broth , and herbs such as oregano, thyme, and basil. Adding a bay leaf or two is also recommended. Let this mixture simmer in the covered crock pot for about half an hour.
3. Add the shellfish, including the mussels. Bring everything to a boil. Then reduce the heat and let everything simmer for 5 minutes or so.
4. After 5 minutes, the clam and mussel shells should have opened.  Discard any that haven’t. Serve in bowls with warm bread.

If you are served Cioppino in Italy, don’t be surprised to find a baby octopus or two in your dish. They are small enough to be tender, and quite tasty, legs and all.

Once you’ve mastered pan steamed mussels, Thai steamed mussels, and Cioppino,  you’re ready to take on the culinary world, at least as far as cooking mussels is concerned.