Mussels in Prosecco sauce with grilled whole grain bread slices.
Mussels are my go to dish! I love it because it makes me feel a little bit fancy but it is cheap and quick. I am not kidding about cheap, they are around $2.99 per pound in most stores. I get them fresh from the fish market which I think is the most important part to ensure great execution. I have developed a relationship with my fish guy and he ensures that I get large, fresh, beautiful ones. Mussels are a power food, they contain high and healthy levels of protein, omega 3, Vitamin C, antioxidants, iron and selenium, a dietary antioxidant. (Sources: FDA)
Fun fact: mussels are usually known by the male version of the species which is the standard dark blue or black variety but if you see a mussel that is coral then those are female. There is no distinction in flavor.
When you are buying mussels they are sometimes sold in a mesh bag or they are sitting directly in ice. Make sure they are stored in ice and they don’t have any cracks as these will deteriorate the quality of the mussels. Mussels should smell fresh and salty like the ocean, keep this in mind when buying. It is best to buy mussels at the end of your food shopping trip as they need to stay cold. You can ask your fish monger for some ice for the trip home if it is a long drive. If you opt to buy mussels at the supermarket they are typically sold in netted bags which limits doing a quick visual inspection. Lift the bag up, shake it around in your hands and check to see if they smell fresh and have any cracks. (See illustration below for PEI Mussels for buying tips)
Although there isn’t much movement, mussels are still alive when you buy them, they will open and close. You will notice this if you store them in a bowl in the refrigerator overnight. They will slightly open and their beard (hairy fibrous) will be visible, it might even attach to the bowl.
I prefer to cook mussels the same day I buy them but if you won’t keep them covered in the refrigerator with a wet towel or paper towel for a few days. You do not want to involuntarily murder these little creatures before you actually kill them so don’t go beyond that 😬. If you buy mussels in a mesh bag there should be a tag showing the best buy date, use that as a guide for timing on using the mussels. Here’s an illustration from Pei Mussels showing proper storage for uncooked mussels.
There isn’t much prep with mussels but their beards that should be removed and the shells washed. The beard looks similar to hair and is easily removed if you give it a good tug in the direction of the narrowest part of the mussel. Wash the mussels in cold water one by one, do not submerge them all at the same time. Mussels that are slightly open will close while under the running water and you can help them along by gently tapping or squeezing them. Mussels that do not close should be discarded.
I cook 2 lbs of mussels for myself which is about 40 mussels because I will eat it as a full meal. I would recommend 1/2 lb of mussels for each person if this is an appetizer. *A quick note, mussels are considered an aphrodisiac use that little tidbit however you choose.
Now let’s flex some mussels! This serves 2 as an appetizer and 1 as a main course.
1 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp butter
4 cloves sliced garlic
1 bay leaf
1 l/4 tsp red pepper flakes or 3 dried red peppers
1/2 cup Prosecco or champagne
1 1/2 lbs of mussels
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp lemon juice
3 sprigs of thyme
Parsley for garnish
I add about 5 or 6 slices of toasted baguette to accompany this dish. I can’t imagine not sopping up that yummy sauce I created or turning that bowl up and drinking that broth. If you choose to add bread, while the mussels are in their last five minutes of cooking toast the bread in the oven for more than 1 person or I like to use a griddle pan on the stove to get some nice grill lines on the bread. Drizzle the pan in olive oil and add the bread. Flip the bread when toasted.
Add the olive oil to a pan and add the garlic. Cook the garlic until they are tender and golden brown about 2 or 3 minutes. Add the Prosecco and bring it to a boil. Mix in the bay leaves, lemon zest and the red pepper flakes. Put the mussels into the pan and cook for 4 minutes covered. Remove the cover and stir the mussels moving them around to ensure that any of the unopened ones can get to the middle of the pan to open fully. Cover the mussels and cook for about an additional 4 minutes or until all the mussels open. If there are any that didn’t open toss them out. Taste the sauce and salt as needed. As and extra I sometimes add about 1 tsp of sugar to help balance the saltiness and tartness.
*You will notice an increase in liquid in the pan, this is because mussels take with them some saltwater in their shells that gets released when they are cooked. The salt water adds to the flavor of the broth. How cool are these little guys bringing their own broth to your party?! Such delightful guests.
Put the cooked mussels in a bowl with some of the champagne sauce, sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley. Add the toasted bread for sopping.
Again, do not let all that delicious broth go to waste, sop it all up with the bread. Toast more bread if you have to or drink the broth like you would any soup.
Share with your friends, they will be impressed that you pulled this off so flawlessly. You will be known as the fancy friend and what a flex that is.