A Guide To Buying And Storing Mussels
Mussels are a classic gourmet food, but one many amateur chefs are afraid of. There’s really nothing to fear, however. Mussels are easy to cook if you know a few easy tricks.
So follow these few, simple steps and you, too, can cook a light, tender, and meaty meal of mussels.
How to Buy Mussels
Look for mussels with in tact shells. Never purchase mussels with broken or damaged shells, or with shells that remain open. Only purchase mussels that have been kept on ice.
Once you bring the mussels home, unwrap them, but keep them out of water, which can kill them. Refrigerate in a open bowl. Cook the mussels the day of purchase.
How to Prepare Mussels
Scrub wild mussels with a stiff brush; this removes any sand, barnacles, or grit that might cover the shells. Grab the beard of each mussel with your fingers and pull hard, toward the hinge of the mussel.
If the beard is too slippery, place a dish cloth over the beard before pulling. Finally, rinse the mussels about 4 times. Just don’t let them sit in water, or you’ll kill them.
Farmed mussels are already cleaned, but you should rinse them one or twice before cooking.
How to Cook Mussels
A common mistake it to overcook mussels. They actually require only a quick steam in a small amount of liquid. (During cooking, mussels open and release fluid. If too much fluid is added to this, they will loose their unique taste.)
Mussels are usually steamed in water, white wine, or a combination of the two. To steam them, pour 1 – 2 cups of water or white wine in a large pan. Place the mussels in the pan and cover. Bring the liquid to a boil on high heat. Steam will begin coming out from under the pan’s lid.
When this happens, lower the heat and simmer until the mussels start opening up—usually about 5 minutes. (For best results, periodically shake the pan so the mussels end up evenly cooked.) Remove the mussels from their shells as each shell opens. If any mussels don’t open, they are bad and should be thrown in the trash.
Mussels can also be baked in a 350 degree F. oven, after steaming. Place each steamed mussel—still in its shell–on a baking tray, sprinkle a little olive oil over them and add pepper, garlic or herbs, as desired. Bake for up about 8 minutes.
Other Tips for Mussels
Before steaming mussels, saute some minced garlic in olive oil. Once it’s browned, add wine or water, and steam as usual.
In place of white wine or water, dry steaming mussels in broth or beer.
If you want to salt the mussels, do so sparingly. They are already salty.
Freeze cooked, shelled mussels by placing them in a freezer bag with a little of the cooking liquid. The mussels will keep for about 3 months.
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