Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Smoky, Spicy Restaurant-Style Mussels (+ a winner!)

Sarah Dunlap, you won Lou's book! Please email me your address and I will pop it right in the mail! And thank you all for playing. And for hating bananas in a smoothie. And for being your game and marvelous selves.

I bought, like, a 1-dollar bottle of wine for the mussels, because I don't go by the "only cook with what you'd drink" rule. Except that I drank the rest of the 1-dollar bottle, so I guess I do go by that rule after all!
So. Mussels. What I love about mussels, besides that they're incredible cheap and incredibly easy, is that they completely satisfy my (near-constant) desire to eat out. Which is a good thing for many rea$on$, if you know what I'm $aying. A loaf of fresh bread and a salad, plus 5 or 6 bucks worth of mussels, and Michael, Ben, and I eat like kings.
Some people prefer not to eat anything that could technically be called an animal, even if it's just an eyeball-less bivalve. Those people, and there was only one of them, got a cheese board with honey and marmalade, and were very happy.
Those same people were so beautiful at Pride that they I might have cried a little bit.
If there's a down-side to mussels, it's that every once in a while you get one and it's bad. It's not just bad. It's a shell full of death and mayhem, and you swear you will never eat another mussel again so long as you live. But eventually the memory fades, the horror wears off, and you creep back in towards the eating of the mussels. Honestly, though, if you buy the farmed ones from Whole Foods, they're almost always perfect.

Other people have grown up and turned into mussel eaters.

These are the same people who were so beautiful at their prom that I might have cried a little bit.
 So, aside from the issue of the potential forensic specimen that will taste like it was severed from a rotten corpse, this is a fool-proof recipe. It's garlicky, shallot-y, a little bit smoky and spicy, and the luscious broth must be sopped up with bread or simply drunk from the bowl. You will be so happy.

Kind of Classic Mussels
You don’t really need to scrub mussels anymore, since they're farmed. If there’s a little grit at the bottom of the pot while you’re pouring the juice, just leave it there. I cook mussels longer than some people do, because I like them more rather than less cooked (the opposite of how I am about salmon).

4 tablespoons butter
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
A pinch of Aleppo pepper flakes (or something else spicy, if you like spicy things)
½ cup white wine
2 - 3 pounds mussels
Good, crusty bread

Melt the butter in a large, heavy pot over medium-low heat, then sauté the shallot and garlic until the shallot is translucent but not browning, around 5 minutes. Add the spices and sauté for just a few seconds—until they’re very fragrant, which will be almost immediately. Add the wine and the mussels, cover the pot, turn the heat to high, and set a timer for 10 minutes. Shake the pot every few minutes, if you think to.

They’re done! Throw out any that don’t open. Garnish with something green, if you want to: a sprinkle of parsley or chives. I added a handful of baby arugula to my bowl last night, and it was delicious. Be sure to mop up the sauce with lots of crusty bread.  


  1. Hi! I was raised vegetarian, and am learning all the little things you'd think I'd know as an adult-who-feeds-herself-regularly, but I don't...

    ...such as - how do you eat a Mussel? Open and slurp? Fork? Hard to open?

    Asking friends is more fun than asking Google...

    1. With all bivalves only eat the ones that open while cooking. They should be open a bit so easily open the rest of the way with your fingers.

  2. I love ordering mussels at restaurants, especially at The Common Man in Ashand, NH--along with their escargot. I'll have to see how this recipe works with frozen mussels, the only ones available in our tiny, landlocked town.

  3. We used to eat mussels a lot, very similar to this. Then a bad batch made the house smelly. The rest of the family have moved past it but I just can't. yet.

  4. I'm with Birdy re: mussels (I'll take the cheese and marmalade please). But the butter, white wine, etc... sauce. Trying to think what else I can eat with that. Pasta?!

  5. Karen9:05 AM

    A little off topic here but I know, Catherine, that you cook a lot of beans and I'm thinking many of your readers do too....I'm thinking of buying a bean cooker (pressure cooker?) and am hoping for some recommendations...Thanks!

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