For the longest time I was afraid to make mussels at home. I was scared off by the fact that just one little bad guy in a pot of otherwise fresh and tasty mussels could wreak such havoc, and I therefore considered it the kind of food which is best left to the experts.
I think it was Anthony Bourdain’s cookbook which first convinced me to try my hand at mussels. In his typically sensitive manner he pointed out that it really wasn’t that hard, and that there were just a few very simple steps one needed to follow in order to prevent any mishaps. Since then I have made mussels dozens of times, and each time I am left wondering why I don’t do it more often. Here is what he taught me:
1. Storing: Once you get the mussels home, if you are not planning to cook them right away, take them out of the plastic bag which they probably came in, rinse them under cold water in a colander, and then place the colander in a bowl and put the mussels in the fridge until you are ready to cook.
2. Prepping: Directly before cooking the mussels, rinse them off again and carefully check them. Remove the beards (if applicable) and make sure any sand or grit is rinsed away so that it doesn’t end up in your broth. Throw away any which are broken or have cracks in the shells. Throw away any which feel suspiciously light. And then throw away any which are not closed, or which do not close when lightly tapped. This is key, ALL of the mussels should be closed before you cook them.
3. Cooking: This step is generally very quick, a few minutes in a pot with a bit of wine or broth and other flavors until they open up.
4. Eating: The only thing to remember here is that you should only eat the mussels which have opened on their own during cooking. Throw away any which are not open, do not try to pry them open. Otherwise, grab yourself some bread to sop up the tasty sauce and enjoy.
See, simple. Still feeling uncertain? This video on epicurious.com does a pretty good job of explaining the process.
Which brings us to this week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe, Mussels & Chorizo. This recipe was different from my standard mussels preparation, which is pretty much a basic Moules Marinieres. Instead, Dorie calls for the mussels to be steamed in a quick tomato & white wine sauce, which is spiced up with the addition of chorizo. We helped ourselves to a big pot, served with nothing more than some crusty bread and a big pile of napkins.
Verdict? Tasty! A nice alternative to my standard recipe and much heartier due to all that sausage. In fact, we bought the usual amount of mussels and for the first time ever ended up with leftovers.