Green Door Hospitality

Adventures in Everyday Entertaining

The Creative Kitchen Challenge: Day 1- Mussels

Mussels in Wine and Garlic Sauce

Mussels have always been one of those foods that I really enjoyed ordering in restaurants but have been TERRIFIED of making at home.  I mean, they’re shells.  What if I cook them wrong?  What if I don’t clean them properly and they taste like sand?  But, that’s what The Creative Kitchen Challenge is about!  Taking a chance on a new ingredient to face these uncertainties.  And I am so glad I did!  They really were wonderful tasting.  But the best part is that they weren’t that difficult to make.  In fact, I was shocked at how easy it was!

I decided to start with the basics.  My husband having never tried mussels before, I didn’t want to over-complicate the flavors.  So I turned to Julia Child.  Mastering the Art of French Cooking offers a great intro to the subject of mussels with detailed instructions to scrubbing and soaking.  We served the mussels with thinly sliced garlic bread topped with melted Parmesan cheese.

I would suggest getting your mussels at a good seafood counter where they will “test” each of the mussels before bagging them for you.  When a mussel is tapped lightly on a counter top, they should automatically close.  If they don’t, it’s not a good mussel.  This generally is not a food that gets worked into a strictly budgeted grocery list (well unless you live in an area where they are caught fresh).  But watch for sales, always paying attention to the quality of the seafood as well.  As we discovered last night, they are well worth it!

Fresh Mussels Steamed Open in Wine and Flavorings  –Mastering the Art of French Cooking Vol. 1, Julia Child

  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 8-10 quart enameled kettle with cover (we took that to mean ‘Dutch Oven’, or at least that’s what worked for us)
  • 1/2 cup minced shallots
  • 8 parsley sprigs
  • 1/2 bay leaf
  • 1/4 tsp thyme
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 6 Tbs butter
  • 6 quarts scrubbed, soaked mussels

GREEN DOOR ADDITIONS:  So, very rarely do I follow a recipe to the letter and not make any modifications.  And this recipe wasn’t any different.

  • 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • dash of kosher salt
  • increased pepper to a couple good turns of the pepper mill

Before being cooked, carefully scrub the mussels to remove sand, dirt, and slime.  Your grocer or fish market should have removed most of this, but it is important to give them one final scrub.  Once cleaned, set the mussels in a deep bowl of fresh water for an hour or two so they will disgorge their sand and also loose a bit of their saltiness.  Lift the mussels out of the water into a colander, wash and drain them again.  Now they are ready to cook.

Bring the wine to a boil in the dutch oven with the rest of the ingredients listed (minus the mussels).  Boil for 2 to 3 minutes to evaporate its alcohol and to reduce its volume slightly.

Add the mussels to the dutch oven.  Cover tightly and boil quickly over high heat.  Frequently grasp the pot with both hands, your thumbs clamped to the cover, and toss the mussels in the pot with an up and down slightly jerky motion so the mussels will change levels and cook evenly.*  In about 5 minutes the shells will swing open and the mussels are done.

With a big skimmer, dip the mussels into wide soup plates or one large serving dish.  All the cooking liquid to settle for a moment so any sand will sink to the bottom.  Then ladle the liquid over the mussels and serve immediately.

*Tossing the mussels in a dutch oven is a bit of a trick since it is a heavier pot and I was afraid to crack the mussels.  My advice:  Do the best you can.

For more information about The Creative Kitchen Challenge, visit Things My Belly Likes

Coming up tomorrow, my adventure with the Cremini Mushroom!

18 comments on “The Creative Kitchen Challenge: Day 1- Mussels

  1. Pingback: The Creative Kitchen Challenge: Getting Started | Beyond The Green Door

  2. Cloches & Lavender
    June 12, 2012

    This sound and looks soo good. I love mussels.


  3. Mama's Gotta Bake
    June 12, 2012

    This is my favorite dish to order in French restaurants. I’m just not brave enough to make them at home.

    • Beyond The Green Door
      June 12, 2012

      Honestly, neither was I. I was shocked how easy it was! I highly recommend giving them a shot and making them at home!

  4. putneyfarm
    June 12, 2012

    Well done. Mussels are great and home and still a pretty good deal…good advice that your fishmonger should check them all…

    • Beyond The Green Door
      June 12, 2012

      Thanks! We really enjoyed them and having the fishmonger check them saved us having a batch that had a 1/4 of them not be good.

  5. thingsmybellylikes
    June 12, 2012

    I’m ridiculously impressed! a) because you did mussels and b) because you have a copy of Julia Child and actually cooked something from it (I’d never be adventurous enough!). Nice one, looks tempting – even to a musselphobe like me

    • Beyond The Green Door
      June 12, 2012

      Haha! Thanks so much! I actually have both volumes (got them as a box set for Christmas from the hubby). AND, at least two more recipes for this week’s challenge are going to be coming from Julia Child! As far as the mussels go, they were really harmless and quite easier to cook than I expected!

  6. Pingback: The Creative Kitchen Challenge Round-Up « Things My Belly Likes

  7. Laurie
    June 13, 2012

    I’ve been afraid to try cooking muscles. Good for you for being brave! I cooked fresh clams once and even though I scrubbed them, they were really gritty. I couldn’t bring myself to eat them. It was such a disappointment. Someone told me to soak them in a tub of cold water for 24 hours before cooking them, but I never gave it another try.

    • Beyond The Green Door
      June 13, 2012

      I actually didn’t find the mussels to be that gritty. I have heard that clams for whatever reason can be more gritty for whatever reason. Soaking does help, though my instructions said for only an hour or so. Julia Child also recommended putting a dash of flour in the water (which I didn’t do this time around) because it disgorges their sand more thoroughly — plus apparently fattens them up and makes them more succulent. If you ever decide to try cooking mussels, let me know. I would love to hear how it turned out!

  8. Pingback: The Creative Kitchen Challenge: Day 4- Avocados « Green Door Hospitality

  9. Pingback: The Creative Kitchen Challenge: Day 3- Figs « Green Door Hospitality

  10. Pingback: Week in Review: Seafood, Petite Sirah, and The 80s | Green Door Hospitality

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