Mussels with White Wine, Shallots and Parsley
They're not as luxurious as lobsters, not as sexy as oysters. But mussels are just as delicious and nutritious as their shellfish cousins, which is probably why humans been eating them for as long as we've been able to open them.
Bang for your Buck Since they're kind of the dark horses of shellfish, mussels are easy on the wallet. They average between $4 and $6 a pound, and if you figure a pound per adult as a dinner serving (or half that per appetizer serving), it's one of the most cost-effective high-quality proteins on the market.
Super-nourishing Mussels are protein powerhouses that are packed with key vitamins and minerals. We get more nutritive benefit out of these little animals because we eat the entire organism (except for the shell) in one bite. That means the important organ meats and digestive tissues, along with the muscle mass. Mussels grow in mineral-rich waters and absorb those minerals, making them excellent sources of selenium, zinc, folate, iodine, and vitamin B12. On top of that, they are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. All of this means that mussels are anti-inflammatory, hormone-boosting foods that help with brain function, weight management, and mineral absorption. Do your body good and eat more mussels.
And They're Sustainable It's no wonder that the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch rates mussels as a best-choice option. Mussels are farmed using centuries-old techniques (dating back to 1290 off the coast of France) where they are grow on ropes or cages suspended in the ocean. These farming practices are far less disruptive to the oceans than the dredging that indiscriminately rakes the ocean floor for wild mussels and other shellfish. Since mussels don't require intensive feeding like other fish, their cultivation doesn't mess with natural nutrient balances in the waters they grow in. Farmed mussels are basically the new and improved wild mussels, it seems.
How to pick out and prep mussels for cooking:
Mussels should be bluish-black in color and should have a faint smell of the ocean. If they smell like anything else, don't buy them. Just before cooking, rinse and inspect every mussel, checking for damaged, broken, or hollow shells. If any of the mussels are open, check that they are still alive by tapping on the shell; if they close, they're still good to use. Finally, scrub any barnacles off the shells and pull off the beard, which is the hairy-looking fibrous membrane that mussels use as an anchoring point. (Sometimes it can be a tug-of-war with the mussel, but it's best to pull it off by using a side-to-side motion. It's okay if you can't get the whole thing). Most cultivated mussels are pretty well-cleaned, but it's worth inspecting each mussel before cooking.
So, give these nutritional powerhouses a try! Here's a super-simple recipe that is classic and delicious: Moules Marinieres, or mussels marine-style.
Prep time 30 minutes
Cook time 15 minutes
Total time 45 minutes
4lb fresh mussels
1 stick butter
2 cups dry white wine
4 cloves garlic (minced)
salt (to taste)
1/2 cup fresh parsley (chopped)
2 Medium shallots (thinly sliced)
If you decide to halve the recipe, store the uncooked mussels in a colander set inside a large bowl. Be sure to check and each individual mussel before cooking.
1 Just before cooking, rinse, scrub, and de-beard mussels. Discard any that don't close in response to tapping with your finger, and any that feel too light.
2 In a large pot over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Stir to prevent burning.
3 Once the butter has melted, add the shallots and cook for about 2 minutes.
4 Add the garlic, a few pinches of salt, and cook for about 30 seconds, until fragrant.
5 Add the wine and bring to a boil.
6 Raise the heat to high and carefully pour in all of the mussels. Immediately slap on the cover. Set a kitchen timer for 8 minutes 30 seconds and press start.
7 Every couple of minutes, carefully shake the pot while holding the lid on.
8 When timer goes off, check to make sure all mussels appear opened. If so, take off heat, toss in half of the chopped parsely, replace lid, and shake again.
9 Pour entire pot into serving bowl or bowls. Make sure you get all of the delicious sauce! Top with remaining parsley.