I love seafood. I eat pescetarian most of the time. This is not because I’m the type of person that names all their animal friends and talks to them all the time (I am, in fact, that person – one day this will probably cause me much mental torment). It is, simply, because I like the taste of seafood much better than all other types of meat, barring specific dishes. For example, oxtail stew, lamb ragu, chicken rice, and loh mai kai.
Most of all, I love all the things that live in shells. To eat, I mean. Not just the clammy types, but prawns, scallops, shellfish, crayfish, crab *swoon*, and all the rest of them. Of course, mussels, clams, lala, oysters, and those swirly looking things in twisty shells are part of this list.
And when I realised mussels only cost $4 for 800g at the market, my reaction was predictable. Despite the fact that I don’t know how to cook mussels. These things make me far too excited.
In honour of my favourite mussels from Brussels, I had no choice but to learn. Shock and horror, it was pretty easy to do well. Mussels are going to become my staple dinner treat. Vongole, here I come!
Mussels with Garlic, Fennel and Parsley
After much internetting, I realised that you can pretty much put anything in mussels providing you steam by adding at least 1/4 inch of liquid on the bottom of the pot, and closing the lid tightly until the mussels are steamed. This is a bit of an ad-libbed recipe, based on looking at roughly 500 other mussel recipes.
1 onion, sliced into rings
8 cloves garlic, chopped
1 baby fennel, sliced into strips
~1 cup water
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Salt & pepper to taste
Yield: 2 servings as a main + 2 servings the next day as a side
- Assuming your mussels aren’t pre-cleaned – first thing when you start, dump them in very very salty cool water on your countertop and leave them there while you prep / chop everything else, for at least 15 – 20 minutes.
- This is to make them expel the sand they are holding on to. They are alive, and when in salt water will open up and spew out all their sand.
- While waiting for your mussels to expel sand, put your stock on the stove in a pot:
- Fry the garlic until light golden, then add the onion. Lower the heat and keep going until they turn transparant.
- Add the salt and sliced fennel. Keep cooking, the fennel might get a little charred at the edges – that’s fine.
- Once your fennel is cooked, add the water and lemon juice. Cover the lid and let it stew until you are done with the mussels. If needed, you can add a bit more water – but let it boil down to about 1/4 inch depth from the bottom of the pan before you put the mussels in. The longer you do this for, the better it will taste. Don’t worry if it’s a bit bland now, the mussels will make it approximately 1,000,000 times tastier.
- The not-fun part: now that your mussels expelled all their sand, you need to clean the shells and debeard them. Do this over the sink.
- To debeard: find the hairy weird bits poking out of the shell, and pull them all off. You might need a knife. You don’t want hairs that look like they came from someone’s armpit floating in your steamed mussels.
- To clean: scrub hard with a dish scrubber / steel wool until the shells look clean. You may need to chip off some especially stubborn bits with a knife.
- You’re ready to cook your mussels! Make sure you have the right amount of liquid (about 1/4 inch depth). If not, add water / boil off. Make sure the liquid is at a rolling boil, then throw in all the clean mussels and close the lid on the pot tightly. Count around 6 minutes. Look through the lid – are the mussels open? If not you can give it a little longer. If they are, your mussels are ready!
- Add pepper. After that, you can either serve immediately, or you can remove the mussels and boil the stock down further before pouring it back over the cooked mussels. Your choice. I cooked mine down 🙂