Why You Should Eat More Mussels


“De-bearding.” “Purging.” “Scrubbing.”

If you’ve ever learn a mussels recipe, it’s possible you’ll properly have determined that the lingo was too daunting so that you can face them at house. The first time I cooked mussels I used to be straight-up terrified. How was I to retailer these bivalve mollusks with out killing them? And how did I do know which of them had been lifeless, in order to not give myself food poisoning?

All in all, it appeared a lot less complicated to waltz all the way down to the closest French bistro—admittedly a simple factor to do right here in New York City—and plunk down $12 to $17 for mussels and fries.

But wait! Don’t try this. Not each time, at the very least. Mussels are sustainable, packed with omega-3s and vitamin B12, prepared in 15 minutes, and so low-cost to prepare dinner at house: You’ll see them going for $3 per pound or so. I purchased a full 36 mussels for $8 even in la-di-da Brooklyn, bringing the price of 2 suppers to $4 apiece. Buy your individual low-cost rosé or Riesling and a loaf of crusty bread, and also you’ve bought mussels-for-two, with wine, for about $15–no tip required.

Let’s break down the intimidating elements so you can begin consuming extra mussels at house, too.


When you see mussels on the farmer’s market or grocery store, be certain they give the impression of being moist and that their shells look tightly closed. (If you see a ton of wide-open shells, go elsewhere for seafood.) They needs to be saved below or over ice. Bring a cooler, and ask the seller to provide you a bag of ice to pack with them. At house, place them in a bowl below a well-sealed bag of ice, and canopy the bowl with a humid towel or fabric. Though many folks say mussels ought to keep good that manner for a few days, I are inclined to eat mine the day I get them—however I’m not nice at delaying gratification.


The quantity of cleansing will rely upon whether or not you’ve purchased farm-raised or wild mussels. The former typically develop on vertical rope farms, which implies they may arrive in your kitchen comparatively free from particles. They additionally are inclined to spend time in tanks previous to delivery, which implies the “purging” step—throughout which they hand around in chilly water till they spit out impurities—is already full. Farm-raised mussels usually solely want a short rinse below chilly water, utilizing a fabric to clean at any oddball spots, earlier than cooking. As you clear them, really feel alongside their ridges for the “beards”—a form of string that happens outdoors the pinched shell. Pull it from 1 finish of the shell to the opposite, and yank it off. (There shouldn’t be many of those.)

Wild mussels, alternatively, may be a bit extra… colourful. A fishmonger not too long ago offered me a bag with shiny, cleaned mussels on the skin, and all types of oceanic particles on the internal mussels. Sneaky! I bought a clear sponge, held every mussel below chilly water, and scrubbed away, de-bearding as I went. It took a minute, however they had been scrumptious. I selected to not purge them, however if you wish to accomplish that, put your wild mussels in a large bowl of well-salted, cold water and place within the fridge for 30 minutes earlier than cooking. Stir often. Just earlier than use, pull them out of the bowl together with your fingers, leaving any sand they’ve spit out behind.


You don’t need to prepare dinner any mussels that arrive with open or cracked shells, however first, be certain these shells gained’t shut with a bit assist: By squeezing them gently collectively or rapping the mussels softly on the aspect of a sink, you’ll see that are nonetheless alive; they’ll shut themselves again up. If no quantity of sentimental tapping and squeezing does the trick, toss these suckers within the trash.

There are 2 colleges of thought on mussels that don’t open after cooking: One says that it is best to toss any that don’t open; the opposite says they’re fine, simply crack them open. I are inclined to err on the aspect of warning, tossing people who stay closed, however do make sure—nonetheless you prepare dinner them—that you just’ve given every little man sufficient time to open up. By utilizing tongs to take away the cooked, open mussels, and transferring the closed ones round within the broth on the backside of the pot to get fairly sizzling, they may quickly relent to the warmth, and pop open. It’s fairly satisfying in the event that they do—like rescuing a bit of your supper.


Mussels are the uncommon kind of seafood that earn nice marks from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch sustainability site, which notes that farmed mussels particularly are “one of the most sustainable seafoods you can buy.” As creator and fish professional Paul Greenberg identified in a current NPR interview, “Mussels, clams, [and] oysters [actually] improve the marine environment even as we grow them. They filter the water. They make the water cleaner. They actually provide structure for all sorts of other animals to exist.”


Here’s one more enviornment through which mussels shine. They’re a fantastic source of vitamin B12, delivering greater than 3 times the every day really helpful worth in a single 3-oz. serving. They’re excessive in protein, low in fats, and ship a couple of 3rd of your every day iron and a 5th of what you want for vitamin C.


Some would guesstimate half of a pound of mussels per particular person; I’m extra of a pound per particular person gal myself and would counsel that for those who’re internet hosting individuals for a (low-cost, scrumptious) supper. The basic French preparation with white wine, parsley, and garlic is a superb strategy, however keep in mind that—like tofu—mussels are a clean canvas. They might be what you need them to be.

Broil them and serve them with herb butter on the half-shell as a sublime appetizer. Toss them right into a spicy shrimp seafood stew. One of the tastiest methods I’ve tried them of late is with a curry butter sauce at Lot 2 right here in Brooklyn. Chef Allison Plumer was sort sufficient to share the recipe, under, which labored marvelously at house. Do make sure you will have sufficient bread to take in all that additional curry butter; it’s to-die-for tasty.

Curry Butter Mussels

Allison Plumer, Chef and Co-Owner, Lot 2, Brooklyn, NY

Serves 2 as an entrée and three to 4 as an appetizer

Note: Plumer requires jarred curry paste, however for those who don’t have it, 1 ½ Tbsps. of yellow Indian curry powder plus a touch of garlic powder made a fantastic substitute.

4 oz. (1 stick) room-temperature unsalted butter

1 Tbsp. pink or inexperienced curry paste (from a jar or can)

Pinch of sugar

½ medium white onion, ½-inch cube

1 clove garlic, minced

Coconut oil (or canola oil)

Dry white wine

¼ cup water

¼ cup coconut milk

½ cup contemporary or frozen peas

24 to 30 mussels, cleaned and purged (if vital)

½ contemporary lemon

Kosher salt

Crusty bread, for serving

  1. Make compound butter: Mix butter, curry paste, and sugar collectively in a big bowl, mashing contents with a wood spoon. Set apart.
  2. Cook mussels: Heat a large stockpot resembling a Dutch oven over medium warmth. Sauté onion and garlic with a splash of coconut oil, stirring ceaselessly, till onions are comfortable, however earlier than garlic browns. Deglaze pan with white wine, utilizing wood spoon to scrape up golden bits. Add water, coconut milk, 2 Tbsps. of compound butter, peas, and mussels. Cover the pan and cut back warmth to medium. Check after a couple of minutes to see if mussels have began to open, which should not take various minutes as soon as the liquid comes as much as a tough simmer. Once most mussels are open, discard any mussels that haven’t opened. Transfer mussels to giant serving bowl.
  3. Finish the pan sauce by including the rest of compound butter. Whisk to include. Add squeeze of lemon and style for acid, salt, and butter. Pour half of a cup of sauce into every of 2 giant bowls. Pour remainder of sauce over bowl of mussels. Toss gently with tongs, to mix. Serve with bread.

Alex Van Buren—comply with her on Instagram and Twitter @alexvanburen—is a Brooklyn-based author, editor, and content material strategist who has written for The Washington Post, Bon Appétit, Travel + Leisure, New York Magazine, Condé Nast Traveler, and Epicurious.

(Editor references)

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