Steamed Mussels in Garlic-Saffron Broth

A story about a boy and a mussel...

One of the earliest culinary memories I have was of vacationing with my parents in the little beach-town of Cambria, CA. Our vacation house was right on the beach, and every morning I would wait for the low-tide so I could go exploring all the really cool tide pools. I always found all sorts of sea life; starfish, sea urchins, even abalone every now and then, but one morning I stumbled upon what would from then on out be referred to as "Mussel Rock." Mussel Rock was only accessable during the lowest of low tides, and was literally covered with beautiful pacific black mussels. I found them interesting at the time, though I really had no idea that they could be eaten until I took a couple to show my Dad. He asked if there were more, and if so, how many, and I said that there were tons! He asked me to go get about ten of the biggest ones I could find so I grabbed my beach-combing bucket and my pocket-knife and went back to mussel rock. When I got back to the house about twenty minutes later, my Dad was in the kitchen chopping some garlic. He had a pan already set up to cook and then showed me how to clean the mussels. I asked him what we were going to do with them, and he said "We're going to eat them for breakfast." Intrigued that you could even eat those things, I decided to watch and learn. After they were cleaned, Dad sauteed them with some garlic, white wine and butter. I watched in amazement as one by one, they started to open. When they were cooked, my Dad offered me one and I apprehensively popped it into my mouth thinking it was going to be disgusting (hey... gotta try everything once, right?). Instead of being grossed out, my tastebuds were hit with what I can only describe as what the flavor of the ocean might be with butter. It reminded me of eating garlic bread-sticks while being sprayed in the face with a crashing wave. It was incredible and dad and I sat there that morning and ate the whole batch while watching the tide roll in. Every summer after that, I would make the early morning trip out to mussel rock almost every day to catch breakfast, and it became a family tradition. Unfortunately, Cambria is now a protected beach and taking ANY wildlife from the ocean is considered poaching and punishable by severe fines. I respect the new rules, but I miss the days when I could crawl out onto a wet rock and grab the most delicious breakfast of my youth. I would say that those mussels with my Dad were the spark that got me interested in food and cooking. That one little shellfish changed me for life...

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Live Greenlip or Pacific Mussels
  • 1/2 cup White Wine
  • 1 cup Chicken or Vegetable Stock
  • 6 Cloves Minced Garlic
  • 1/4 cup Finely Diced White Onion or Shallots
  • 1/4 cup Chopped Green Onion or Leeks
  • 2 tbsp. Fresh Basil
  • 1 tsp. Saffron Threads (appr. 30 threads)
  • 1/2 tsp. Celery Salt

 

  • Step 1) Cleaning Mussels - Fresh mussels usually have what's called a "beard" that will need to be removed before cooking. The beard is basically the fibrous inedible calcium threads on the outside of the mussel's shell that adheres it to a rock. These calcium threads can end up in your sauce and have a bitter chalky taste. Use a paring or oyster knife to pry the beards off, then scrub what's left with a toothbrush.

  • Step 2) Chuck the dead ones - Go through your batch of mussels and throw out any of them that have cracked shells or won't close when you tap them. Live mussels will close up when you tap their shells but the dead ones won't. Dead mussels are likely to carry bacteria and toxins that will make you sick, and can lend an off-flavor to your broth.

  • Step 3) Saute the Onion and Garlic - In a large sauce pan, saute together the white onion and garlic until the onion turns translucent.
  • Step 4) Deglaze with White Wine - Add the white wine to the pan and continue cooking until reduced by half.
  • Step 5) Add the Mussels - Add your cleaned live mussels, the chicken or vegetable stock, the green onion or leeks, basil, saffron and celery salt. Bring to a simmer and cover.
  • Step 6) Cook until Mussels Open - Usually about 3 to 5 minutes. When all or most of the mussels are open, they're done. Throw out the ones that didn't open (because they're bad) and serve immediately!

Comments 14 comments

breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 6 years ago

My mouth is watering!


Delaney Boling profile image

Delaney Boling 6 years ago Author

Then I've succeeded! Can you believe that I learned how to cook mussels before I learned how to make chocolate chip cookies? I was a weird kid by some standards, but I always ate well. Oh, and I also eventually learned how to make chocolate chip cookies...


ButterflyWings profile image

ButterflyWings 6 years ago

Delaney, I've never had the opportunity to eat mussels, but I sure would like to try them. Living mid-way between both U.S. coasts has its disadvantages. I've only seen the ocean once...and I was 24 by then. It seems neat to me that you were able to use the sea as a playground.


Delaney Boling profile image

Delaney Boling 6 years ago Author

Hi ButterflyWings, thanks for reading! I travel a lot to the midwest (in-laws live in NE) so I hear ya! There are some good seafood purveyors that will ship inland, and shellfish ship well on ice as long as they're still alive, but it raises the price because of shipping. You can also find frozen mussels on the half-shell that will work in this recipe (just follow the cooking time on the box), but fresh mussels are ideal. Check with your local seafood guy or go to a sushi bar and ask where they get their mussels. I've found that universally, sushi places always get the best seafood at the best prices. Heck, ask nicely enough and they might just sell you some of their fresh mussels for what they paid for them.


ButterflyWings profile image

ButterflyWings 6 years ago

Thanks for the tips. Unfortunately, the nearest sushi bar that I'm aware of is three hours away, so that's not a very likely option for me, but if I ever find myself in a position to order some mussels, I'll give this recipe a go...and let you know *my* description of it. Maybe by then I'll have had a chance to get slapped in the face by the sea, and you're description of your father's method will make more sense to me. ;-)


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia

This sounds amazing! Would it work for clams? We sometimes go clamming, but I don't think we have mussels around here that are edible.


blondepoet profile image

blondepoet 6 years ago from australia

I love seafood I could not resist but look at this. I wish I were eating these right now.


Delaney Boling profile image

Delaney Boling 6 years ago Author

BFW: Actually, I said "sprayed in the face", not "slapped". LOL! Sorry to hear about your lack of a sushi place. Is there a seafood vendor or does your local supermarket have a seafood section? Talk with them about getting some fresh mussels. I'm sure they can accomodate.

Habee: This recipe's great for any shellfish. I actually used to do this dish with mussels, clams and prawns over saffron risotto and would garnish it with crispy-fried pancetta. It was our own take on paella, and usually sold out every night!

Blondepoet: Thanks for reading! The great thing about this dish is how easy it is to make. You can't screw it up! Just wait for the mussels to open and it's done. Bon Appetit!


ButterflyWings profile image

ButterflyWings 6 years ago

Delaney, so sorry to misquote you! I should look before I type. The local supermarkets are a joke. Actually, there isn't even one in my hometown...nor a regular gas station, either. I only eat as well as I do because I grow or butcher most of my own food.

But one of these days, when I've got a couple extra bucks to spend, I'll make it work out to try some different kinds of seafood. The closest thing we've got readily available are Rocky Mountain Oysters. ;)


Delaney Boling profile image

Delaney Boling 6 years ago Author

Wow. It sounds like you DO live deep in the heartland... I bet you could get some good stream trout though. I've had Rocky Mountain Oysters before and even though it was kind of weird thinking about what they were, they were actually pretty good!

If you ever did want to get some fresh live oysters, you can order them through amazon.com (I included a link on this page right under the ingredients list).


Dave Mathews profile image

Dave Mathews 6 years ago from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA

Delaney, How's it going pal? I loved your story and I also love your recipe it sounds totally out of sight. Being mostly a steak and potatoes sort of guy I am always intrigued to discover something unfamiliar to my taste buds. I am planning to offer up my version of a Vegetarian Lasagna on a Hub that you might find interesting.

Thank you.


Delaney Boling profile image

Delaney Boling 6 years ago Author

Hey Dave! Thanks for reading! I'm a steak and potatoes guy myself but I also love seafood (and especially fresh seafood!). I've tried pretty much anything you can think of, and the only food I really can't get into is escargot. They have a great flavor, but are a bit chewy for my liking. If you ever find yourself with some fresh mussels or clams, give this recipe a try. You can even add a spoonful of your pasta sauce to the broth for a tasty tomato-saffron based version. Salud!


ButterflyWings profile image

ButterflyWings 6 years ago

Delaney, when the time comes, I'll come back here and make the order through your hub so you get some credit.


Delaney Boling profile image

Delaney Boling 6 years ago Author

That would be great BFW! Thanks! I know that amazon.com ships most of their seafood from a company called Charlston Seafood, and they are a great company. They have an excellent reputation and they'll ship on ice to assure you the freshest product.

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