03 December 2009

White Wine Steamed Mussels

When Andrew and I go out to dinner, one of our favorite appetizers to order is mussels.  Typically, they've been steamed in white wine, then served in some variation of a scampi sauce - white wine, butter, and garlic.  I decided it would be fun, easy, and way less expensive to make this dish at home.  Having grown up in a family that adores all seafood, I've cooked many varieties in many different ways, so I don't have that fear that a lot of other home cooks seem to have regarding seafood.  If you are one of those people who is always nervous about cooking fish or shellfish, this is a great recipe for you.  It requires very little effort and it's tough to mess up!

This recipe makes a good appetizer for 4-6 people, but Andrew and I ate it as our meal.  If you wanted, you could serve the mussels and the butter-wine sauce over linguine, and it would probably serve 4 people as well.  Andrew and I opted to eat the steamed mussels as our main course, accompanied by a sliced baguette and a green salad. 

White Wine Steamed Mussels
adapted from The Big Slice 

2 lb. fresh mussels, washed
2 tbsp. butter
1 medium onion, sliced or chopped
1-1/2 c. white wine
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped (optional)

A tip on storing mussels:  when you buy them, the fishmonger may pack them in ice in a plastic bag for you.  If you purchase from a seafood market, they will most likely give you a bag with holes in it.  If you buy your mussels in the grocery store, they will probably put them in a regular plastic bag.  If they do this, take a pen or your car keys and poke holes in the top of the bag.  The best way to do this is to hold the bag in your left hand, and use your poking tool (I like to use an uncapped pen) to stab the loose area at the top of the plastic (where there are no mussels).  You want them to stay alive until you cook them; that is the point of packing them on ice, so don't suffocate them by skipping this step.  Put the mussels in a bowl in your fridge so the ice doesn't leak everywhere as it melts.

If you need advice on how to clean mussels (also known as "de-bearding" them), The Big Slice has a video for you.

Once they're clean, it's time to cook!  Make sure you have thrown away any mussels with open or broken shells.  Steam the mussels over 2 cups of water and 1/2 cup of the white wine for ten minutes.  Discard any whose shells do not open. 

In the meantime, melt the butter in a medium saucepan.  Add the onions and saute on medium high heat so they will carmelize.  (This is an alteration - when I made this, I followed TBS's recipe exactly, and I found the onions were too white and too crunchy for my taste.)  Add the garlic, sauteeing for another minute or two.  Once softened, add the remaining cup of wine and bring to a simmer.

Continue simmering until the wine has reduced by about half.  Add one cup of the mussel steaming liquid to the pan, stir to combine.

Serve the mussels in a large bowl - pour the sauce over them, top with fresh parsley.   Accompany with plenty of crusty bread for dipping.

This is a great introduction into cooking shellfish.  If you've never tried serving seafood at home, this recipe is a fun first step.  A small ingredient list and simple preparation allow the mussels to shine.  I know you'll be satisfied with the results if you try this one!

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