One of my favorite dishes to order in a restaurant is moules frites. Succulent little mussels in a delicious broth with really great fries and bread to sop up the sauce – heavenly. It’s a simple dish, but one I don’t often make at home. With the exception of shrimp, seafood is something I don’t really mess with. There’s the potential of sandy bites and fishy flavors. But what I’ve been realizing is that cooking is something I work at constantly, bit by bit (or should I say bite by bite?) and I look for challenges with each recipe I tackle. So why shy away from making one of my favorite bistro dishes due to some silly fear of failure? That’s why I made a big ole batch of mussels for my friends on Sunday night.
I’ve been wanting to make these mussels for a while, but I kept procrastinating. First I didn’t have the right pots or pans. Then I didn’t want to traipse all over New York to get mussels that I felt were safe to eat. Then I had to get people over to eat them because who makes mussels for themselves? (The answer is: me. I would totally just make myself mussels now. It’s not hard at all.) Finally, the perfect opportunity presented itself this weekend and I’m oh-so-glad I committed.
I found this recipe on Pinterest. It’s from a restaurant down in San Antonio, TX and it uses PBR instead of white wine. I found that really intriguing. I can get a nice bowl of mussels in a white wine or a tomato broth easily, but mussels in beer isn’t something I come across often, so I went for it.
I ended up adapting it based on what was available at the store and what I already had on hand, but the elements are all the same. I used a kielbasa from Trader Joe’s instead of a smoked ham and scallions instead of spring onions. I also made more than the recipe called for. I can’t say I doubled it, exactly. I just…made more of it and eyeballed pretty much all of it. Ya know, just livin’ my life casually, cookin’ up some mussels, drinkin’ some wine (I mean, just because I was making mussels with PBR doesn’t mean I couldn’t drink a nice, crisp Sav Blanc).
The end results were pretty great! I didn’t get one single sandy bite, all of the mussels opened, and there was plenty of liquid to sop up with the ciabatta I grilled for exactly that purpose. I’d like to work on getting a slightly thicker sauce. I think it needed more butter (?!?! shame on me!). I guess this is where my eyeballing might need some work, but you know what they say: Practice, practice, practice!
Now I have more leftovers than I expected…so let’s see where that leads me! Stay tuned!
Notes on buying, cleaning, and storing mussels:
- I learned that farm-raised mussels are actually one of the few farm-raised fish that do good things for their environment! They’re also inexpensive and come nicely cleaned already. So you can buy convenient seafood guilt-free!
- It goes without being said, but try to buy the freshest mussels you can. Store them in the fridge with a bag of ice either on top of them, or below.
- Even though farm-raised mussels are usually very clean when purchased, still check all of them for grit and beards. The beard is the small group of stringy debris growing out of the crevice. Pull back and down towards the hinge of the mussel to de-beard it.
- While cleaning, if you come across an open mussel, tap it to see if it will close. If it doesn’t close, discard it. You’ll be bound to run into a few of these.
- See here and here for a more comprehensive understanding of buying, cleaning, and storing mussels.
PBR Steamed Mussels
Serves: about 6 people
4 pounds mussels, cleaned
2 kielbasa sausage links, chopped roughly
3 scallions, thinly sliced
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 bottles lager, like Pabst Blue Ribbon
1 stick unsalted butter
1 medium tomato, diced
Kosher salt to season, flakey sea salt to serve (like Maldon)
Freshly ground black pepper
Sliced and toasted crusty bread, to serve
- Heat the olive oil in large, heavy bottomed pot (such as a Le Creuset or All-Clad) over medium-high heat. Add the kielbasa, garlic, and scallions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the kielbasa is getting crispy and garlic and scallion have softened, about 5 minutes.
- Add the mussels and cook, stirring for 2-3 minutes. Add the beer and cook, covered, for about 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Uncover and add the butter and tomato. Cover for another 3-4 minutes until butter has melted and the mussels have opened completely. Season with salt and pepper and give it one last big stir.
- Divide the mussels and broth into bowls and serve with a generous sprinkle of sea salt and lots of toasted bread.