Seafood, when sourced responsibly, is full of essential nutrients and can be a delicious and quick route to dinner. This mussels recipe is loaded with the fragrant flavors of wine and aromatic vegetables, and if you eat meat, salami adds a salty, savory punch. Above all, it cooks up in ten minutes flat!
What is a la minute cooking?
In a professional kitchen, the French phrase a la minute (pronounced ma-newt), means "to the minute". It refers to dishes that are cooked quickly for the guest once they are ordered, and not a moment sooner.
In our often times too busy culture, the challenge of cooking a fresh, nutritious dinner is tabled for take out, or worse drive-thru or pizza delivery. But eating well on a regular basis is made much easier when you have easy, quick recipes like this mussels one in your arsenal.
And the trick to cooking fresh food real quick like is harnessing the technique. With mussels, this starts with careful storage and prep.
Three tips for buying and storing mussels
With these blue-shelled beauties - which by the way are sustainable because they are (mostly) farmed with care - it's pretty simple.
- Buy fresh. As with any seafood, fresh is best. Check with a local seafood shop or even CostCo as to when the mussels were harvested. The sooner any seafood is consumed after harvest, the safer and more delicious it will be.
- Store chilled, on ice. As an oyster bar chef at Bouchon Bistro, I once spent my days maintaining the integrity of the restaurant's seafood. To keep the clams, oysters and mussels as fresh as possible, store them in the refrigerator on ice. The easiest way to do this is to lay the seafood on ice in a colander (strainer), and set it over a large bowl for drainage.
- Discard any dead mussels. That's right, we're dealing with live bivalves here. If you have any mussels that don't close when you give them a squeeze, discard them.
How to clean and debeard mussels
Mussels have a rough, thread-like appendage along their crack, commonly called the beard. While not inedible or harmful, the beard is not edible times. Some may lose their beard during processing, so the absence of one is not cause for alarm.
To clean mussels. Even if cleaned after harvest, mussels will still benefit from a little soak and scrub in salty water. An efficient way to clean mussels is to soak them in a large bowl filled with heavily salted water while you remove the beards.
To remove the beard. Remove each mussel's beard by pinching it firmly and pulling with an outward and downward or upward motion. I find with 80% of mussels, the upward motion (toward the curved end) works best. Beards can be tough, no need to fret if you can't pull the entire beard off. This is a great job for kiddos!
Steamed mussels recipe, a la minute
It truly is as quick as it sounds. All you need is a hot pan, a good helping of white wine (or broth or even water), and in go the bivalves.
Simmer the aromatics and wine. To send glorious aromas wafting through your house, first combine half a bottle of wine, minced garlic, shallots, peppercorns and any herbs you have on hand to a simmer. A quick broth can come together in just a few minutes, but the lower and slower you reduce the wine, the more flavor you impart.
Optional: Strain the reduction. If you'd like a smooth liquid, strain the reduction, and return it to a large pot for steaming the mussels.
Ready, set, steam! Once the wine or reduction is at a strong simmer, add the mussels and cover the pot. The mussels will open within a couple minutes of cooking over high heat. Give the pot a few good shakes occasionally for even cooking. Discard any mussels that don't open.
Steaming without a reduction
In the absence of the time or desire to make a reduction, straight white wine, seafood stock, diluted claim juice or even water can be used as the steaming liquid.
Then voila! Dinner a la minute, and an earth and figure friendly one at that. I'd tell you the most delicious way to sop up the steaming broth is with french fries, but that would make me a hypocrite.
The French often enjoy mussels as moules frites - mussels with fries. I also love sopping up the broth with a flaky, toasted sourdough baguette. But if you're avoiding gluten, grain, or carbs, mussels are delicious on their own, and there's no more efficient way to slurp a savory wine reduction than with a spoon.
- 2 pounds fresh mussels, cleaned of beards (discard any that are cracked or don't respond to gentle pressure)
- 2 cups dry white wine, Sauvignon Blanc, unoaked Chardonnay or Muscadet recommended
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 shallot, minced
- 3 cloves garlic, sliced
- few pinches whole peppercorns
- genoa or soppressata salami, sliced
- 1 Roma tomato, seeds removed, small dice
- fresh chopped thyme or Italian parsley, optional
- fresh baguette or french fries, optional
- In a very large pot, combine wine, shallots, garlic and thyme and bring to a boil.
- Simmer over medium to medium-low heat for a few minutes.
- Optional: strain liquid and return to the pot.
- Over high heat, add mussels to wine reduction and cover the pot.
- Cook for three to five minutes, just until mussels begin to open.
- Add salami and tomatoes, and cook another minute to warm through.
- Important! Discard any mussels that didn't open.
- Garnish with fresh chopped herbs, and serve with toasted bread, oven-baked fries or solo.
- Discard any mussels that do not open.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Steaming
- Cuisine: French
Keywords: steamed mussels, white wine steamed mussels, how to cook mussels, how to debeard mussels