I love ordering mussels at restaurants. Fortunately there are so many restaurants near us in Portsmouth NH and Portland Maine that have them on their menus. They are sort of an interactive food, since you are eating the sweet, meaty mussels and then using the shells or some crusty bread or a spoon to scoop up the aromatic broth they are cooked in which tastes like heaven- acid from the wine, aromatic garlic and leeks, and the earthy taste of the ocean from the mussels. I love the spicy kick from the chorizo so much that I love adding it but they are good without it if you don’t have it or don’t love spice.
They are also really easy to make at home. Once you find a good fish monger who carries them like Whole Foods or specialty stores all you need to do is sort through them to make sure you are only cooking healthy, living mussels (aka the ones that are tightly closed and smell briny and not fishy). Then find some yummy base flavors like onions, leeks, garlic, wine, herbs, and you’ll end up with something delicious.
Then put a lid on them and they cook very quickly.
They are easy, fast and cheap to make at home, but they feel like a bistro/restaurant quality meal. I think the main reason home cooks shy away from them is the difficulty in figuring out if they are good or not. So here is a quick guide to help and once you do it a few times you get the hang of it (adapted from this post here if you want to learn more).
I hope you get to make them soon! Happy Eating, xoxo Katie
BUYING FRESH MUSSELS
- Prime mussel season is from October to March.
- Mussels are alive and are kept on ice at the market. They will often come in a mesh bag with a tag indicating harvest location, date, and use by date. If the mussels are loose in the case, you can ask your fishmonger to show you the tag.
- Let your nose be your guide! Mussels should smell like the ocean and sea air: briny and fresh. They should not smell overly fishy.
- The shells should be closed tightly. If you find any mussels in your bag with open shells, gently tap them on the counter, wait a minute, and see if they close. Discard any mussels don’t close, or those with chipped or cracked shells.
- Transport mussels home from the market in an open-topped bag that can breathe. Tightly tying them up in a plastic bag without air circulation will risk smothering and spoiling them.
Mussels with White Wine, Leeks & Chorizo
2 pounds of mussels
1 Tablespoon butter
2 leeks, light green and white parts washed and sliced
3-4 garlic cloves
1 cup chorizo, sliced lengthwise and then in 1/2 inch sliced or crumbled
1 cup white wine
2 cups stock (chicken, seafood or vegetable all work)
3 stalks fresh thyme leaves
3 Tablespoons chopped parsley
1/2 cup heavy cream
Sort mussels, removing any that are open. Soak in a bowl of water with a 1/4 cup of flour for 10 minutes.
Melt butter in wide pan, then add leeks. Saute for 3-5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add chorizo and cook 2-3 minutes, then add white wine and cook a few minutes, then add chicken stock, thyme, parsley and mussels and cover. Cook 8 minutes. Remove lid and stir in cream, then pour into a serving dish. Serve immediately with crusty bread.