Mussels: Achievement Unlocked

There’s a point when you’re making mussels for dinner where it becomes undeniably obvious that you are in fact preparing a live animal for consumption. That point most likely occurs during the “cleaning and de-bearding” stage – which, let’s be clear, is made worse by the use of the word “de-bearding” – when the mussels can get protective of their little beardy bits (seriously, what the hell are those, anyway?) and pull them back inside their shells.

Don’t freak out. This is perfectly normal self preservation behavior for a live animal about to become a tasty tasty snack. Says the former vegetarian.

I’d never prepared mussels at home, but our family’s love of all things mollusk is well documented (though we prefer them sans starfish, thank you very much). This weekend, inspired by San Francisco’s crab season (totally a thing) I went a little seafood crazy at the market. In addition to dungeness crabs, I also picked up 5 lbs of mussels.

Five pounds? you say. That sounds like a lot.


Oh yeah. It is.

I opted to go the traditional white wine route, adding tomatoes, onions, garlic, thyme, rosemary, sage and parsley, like you do. It made for a lovely presentation.

mussels with white wine sauce

Coupled with crusty bread for sauce sopping, I’d say this was a pretty successful first attempt at making mussels in the comfort of my own kitchen. We didn’t actually finish all 5 lbs, by the way. Not that you can tell from the carnage below.


But now Avi has an enviable lunch of leftovers to take to school, and I have conquered one aspect of a previously intimidating cooking category.

What should be next?


5 thoughts on “Mussels: Achievement Unlocked

  1. I love them. And so easy. I do miss Dungeness crab — the ones you get in Pittsburgh are simply not worth it. Might go for scallops Provençal next. And grilled — yes, grilled — clams with lemony, garlicky, herby breadcrumbs are totally a thing.

    • I’m going to need more information on this grilled clams idea, J. Just shell directly on the grill or in foil or what? Any other localish suggestions? I figure you have the SoCal and PacNo perspective locked, so maybe I can meet you in the middle? ;)

      • Fair enough.

        Get a grill going. Hardwood charcoal would be best, but whatever you have.

        While you’re waiting for it to get to temperature, put some old bread in a food processor until it’s breadcrumbs and toast — either in a dry pan over medium heat on the stove or on a sheet pan in the oven.

        Zest lemons — Meyer lemons would be best and, hey, you’re in California — and chop fresh tarragon and toss with the breadcrumbs after they cool. Reserve the rest of the lemons. (Doesn’t have to be tarragon, per se. Basil would be really nice or thyme or oregano or ….)

        Clams still alive and in the shell but having been cleaned. Place on grill and pull off as soon as they pop open, saving as much of their liquid as you can.

        Toss clams (in shells) with breadcrumb mixture along with some of the lemon juice, fresh black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Should be enough salt in the clam juices that you won’t need more, but taste and adjust as necessary.

        Eat them bitches.

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