Mussels are one of the most versatile and flavorful ingredients you can buy. They’re packed with healthy nutrients, are low in calories and fat, and are a great source of lean protein. They also happen to be delicious, whether you’re cooking them up in a flavorful broth, tossing them on the grill, or using them as a healthy addition to your favorite curry. Today we’re taking a closer look at mussels and offering up four delicious mussel recipes that are sure to impress.
How to Eat A Mussel
If you’ve never tried a mussel before, don’t let the novelty of a bivalve intimidate you. Between their subtle flavor and chewy, but tender, texture, they have been dubbed the “chicken of the sea.” While different types of mussels taste slightly differently, the general sweet, mushroomy flavor stays consistent.
Preparing Fresh Mussels
Unlike some of their fellow bivalves, mussels cannot be eaten raw and must be heat treated. As with any fresh shellfish, take care in the purchase and preparation – a contaminated mussel can cause food poisoning!
Buy Local and Coastal
If you live somewhere coastal, you can check your market or local fishmonger for fresh mussels. Their peak season falls between October and March. However, with intentional farming, safe-to-eat mussels can be found year-round. Mussels are kept alive until cooking because dead mussels spoil rapidly. When perusing your options, look for mussels kept on ice with shiny, wet shells that are sealed tightly. Signs of a dead or spoiled mussel include a dull, chipped, or open shell that doesn’t close when tapped. Once you’ve found a good-looking batch, you need to take the shell weight into account. The shell contributes up to half the weight of the mussel, so buy accordingly; between a quarter and half-pound per person should do it.
All fresh mussels need to be cleaned before cooking. To rinse off the seaweed and sand, toss the mussels in a colander under running water and lightly scrub any debris from their shells. The next step is debearding. The “beard” is a filamentous organ that acts as an anchor. You can either scrape the beard off with a knife or pull it off with your fingers.
Quality Canned Mussels
Landlubbers are not out of luck! Canned mussels provide high-quality, sustainable, and delicious options for anyone, anywhere to try. While you won’t have the same “in shell” experience, the delicate taste and exquisite experience will stay the same. Not only that, but opting for canned mussels saves you all the tedious time and effort of finding and preparing the shellfish. Small businesses like Palacio de Oriente have been sustainably canning shellfish from the Iberian peninsula for over a century. You can expect perfectly cooked and flavored mussels just every time you open a can!
Mussel Recipe Ideas
A Quick Snack: Mussel Smørrebrød
For a simple and hearty snack, try mussels on toast! Canned mussels are perhaps the best part of this recipe, making it super quick and super delicious. You can buy canned mussels in all sorts of flavorful sauces. Whether your mussels are smoked, pickled, or tinned with a peppery Galician sauce, this recipe adapts well to any flavor profile.
- 4 oz can of Mussels
- Half a lemon or lime
- Few sprigs of parsley (other fresh herbs work well too!)
- Salt and Pepper
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 slices of a crusty sourdough bread
- Toast bread until lightly golden.
- Pile a few mussels on each piece of bread. Don’t be shy!
- Decorate your toast with a squeeze of citrus and a sprinkle of parsley. Add a dash of salt and a few grinds of pepper, and then finish with a drizzle of your nicest olive oil. Enjoy!
Elegant Appetizers: Moules Farcies
French for “stuffed mussels,” moules farcies make the perfect hor d’Oeuvre. Bite-sized and served in their shell, this recipe is best for fresh mussels.
- 1 1/2 cups coarse crumbs from a fresh loaf of crusty Italian or French bread
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1/2 oz)
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano or 3/4 teaspoon dried, crumbled
- 1/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon table salt
- 1 1/4 pound, cleaned and steamed then shucked, reserving half of the shells
- 2 cups kosher salt
- Garnish with lemon wedges
- Preheat the oven to 450°F.
- Mix bread crumbs, oil, cheese, garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, and table salt.
- Scrub reserved shells inside and out and dry thoroughly. Spread kosher salt about 1/4 inch deep in a large shallow (1-inch-deep) baking pan and nestle shells in salt to keep them level. Return shucked mussels to shells and top each with about 1 teaspoon bread crumb mixture.
- Bake mussels in the middle of the oven until crumbs are golden brown and crisp, about 7 minutes.
- Cool slightly and brush salt from the bottoms of mussel shells before serving.
Adapted from Epicurious.
One Pan: Paella
The subtle flavor of mussel pairs well with many different spices. However, a paprika and saffron spiced paella celebrates the shellfish like no other. While this recipe, adapted from Matthew Evans can be prepared with fresh mussels, opt for a few cans for a simple yet show-stopping week-night dinner.
- ¼ cup olive oil, plus 2 tbsp
- 1 small red onion, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
- 5 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp sweet paprika
- 1 generous pinch of saffron, toasted lightly in foil in a moderate oven
- 1 ¼ cup Calasparra or Arborio rice
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme
- 3 cups water
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 (100g) cans of mussels
- Lemon wedges
- Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook for a few minutes until it starts to brown, then add bell pepper and garlic and cook until soft.
- Season with both the paprikas, then stir and cook lightly for a few seconds, taking care not to burn. Add the tomato and saffron, and cook a couple of minutes longer. Remove from heat and puree in a blender or food processor.
- In the same pan, heat another 1-2 tbsp olive oil and fry the uncooked rice well until starting to color a bit. Re-add the veggie puree along with the bay leaves and thyme and fry for about 5 minutes.
- Pour in the water and bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat. Cook the rice for about 25 minutes, without stirring, adding a few extra tablespoons of water if needed. (It’s ok if the bottom gets a bit crusty)
- When the rice is just about cooked, add the mussels, pushing them well down into the rice. Remove from the heat and let sit for 5-10 minutes so flavors meld. Garnish with lemon, and enjoy!
The Main Course: Pasta
Mussels and pasta go together like bread and butter. (On that note, mussels, pasta, bread, and butter all go pretty well together.) Similar to the paella, this pasta adapted from a Food Network recipe can be prepared with fresh shellfish, but canned mussels bring cozy convenience.
- 8 oz linguini
- 3 to 4 ounce can drained smoked mussels
- 2 1/2 ounce can of smoked sardines packed in oil
- 1 tablespoon capers
- A handful of chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 cup sliced scallions
- Salt and crushed red pepper flakes
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta, and cook to package instructions.
- Meanwhile, coarsely chop the mussels, sardines, and parsley. Mix together in a bowl with capers, lemon juice, and olive oil. Season with salt and red pepper flakes.
- Drain pasta, and toss with seafood medley. Garnish with scallions.
Whether you’re feeling adventurous and want to try something new, or you’re in the mood for comfort food, mussels are sure to hit the spot. And once you try one of these recipes, we bet you’ll be hooked too. Find quality canned mussels from TinCanFish, so you can start whipping up shellfish delicacies in no time!
[Featured image by Taylor Friehl on Unsplash] https://unsplash.com/photos/X2Xvv5OmPWY