Mussels are awesome. They’re briny and seafoody and delicious, they’re super easy to cook, they’re pretty cheap compared to other kinds of seafood, and they are REALLY versatile. I was born in and spent a lot of my childhood in Alaska, and occasionally we’d just pull them off the rocks and load them in a pot of chowder or something simple. Now that I live in land-locked Oklahoma, I don’t get to have that luxury but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy them just as much!
John had never had steamed mussels with a side of crusty bread, so I decided that’s what we’d go with this time. There aren’t many things in this world better than dipping some good bread into the garlicky, lemony, briny liquid in the bottom of the bowl after you’ve scarfed those scrumptious shellfish! Few ingredients. UBER simple. If you like seafood you really owe it to yourself to try this if you can get a good source of fresh, LIVE mussels where you live. A good supermarket or a local fish market is your best bet.The ingredients are pretty basic: a nice loaf of French bread, a bunch of mussels, a lemon or two, a shallot, a few cloves of garlic, a handful of fresh parsley, and some wine — that’s really it. I added some crushed red pepper to add a little zing to the broth. It’s a pretty traditional mussels dish, and it seems like there’s a wide variety of takes on it. The recipe I’ll share is sort of my twist on it, but it’s probably not very different from the original.
The result of steaming the mussels in such a flavorful liquid is fresh, herbaceous, garlicky, lemony, bread-dunking goodness with a hint of the wine (if you really don’t want to steam them in a little wine, you can always use water well-seasoned with salt and pepper, or a veggie broth). The mussels are tender and juicy, with a hint of the ocean. They’re seriously delish!
If you like clams better than mussels, you can always substitute the shellfish of your choice with this steaming liquid. I think this would work with shrimp too, but the liquid won’t be as slurpable at the end because mussels (and clams and oysters) give off a salty, yummy liquid as they open and steam — sort of the essence of mussels. You’re left with almost a seafoody little soup in the bottom of the bowl.
My local Sprouts Farmers Market had a sale going for $2.99 live Prince William Sound (Alaska) mussels, but all of the Sprouts in my city were sold out. I went looking for a well-rated seafood market here in Oklahoma City and wound up going to Gulfport Seafood, which had a wide array of fresh and frozen seafood, clams, mussels, crab, lobster, and fish, a huge variety and everything appropriately stored and gorgeous. The fish market didn’t even smell like a fish market, which means everything is SUPER fresh.If you’re in my neck of the woods I’d highly recommend them, but if you aren’t I’d encourage you to visit a seafood market or two just to browse. You’ll probably be surprised how relatively inexpensive fish and seafood can be when you’re dealing with someone who specializes only in the ocean!
I ended up paying $5.95 a pound for live, wild-caught mussels from Prince Edward Island in northeastern Canada. One pound of live mussels will yield about one cup of meat, so plan accordingly. I bought 4 pounds for a total of $24.00 (we were due for a little splurge) and even at that price we were able to eat until we were full and still spent less than we would at Joe’s Crab Shack or similar for an appetizer portion of steamed mussels and a meal for one of us. Score!