This recipe sort of mashes steaming and baking due to the sheer volume of mollusky goodness. We took one look at our pot and realised it simply wasn’t going to do the whole lot in one fell swoop. Luckily we had a very astute guest present who suggested doing them in the large roasting pan we normally use for turkey. Perfect!
Now, a word about dealing with mussels: the cooking of the little critters takes very little time at all, however the prep work can be quite a lot longer depending on the state in which the mussels were sold. We lucked out as ours were sold ‘debearded’ but some still had beards which needed to be snipped and tossed and they all needed cleaning. As such, the first thing we did was toss them into two large bowls of very cold water and begin the cleaning process. I’m probably a bit too meticulous about this but I want to be sure I get all of the dead ones. Cleaning each shell ensures that I see each one which is open and broken so I can pitch it straight away. Any with open shells should be discarded if they don’t quickly close with a tap on the table. Also, scrubbed mussels look prettier than unscrubbed one and as I wanted to do them in a broth to be enjoyed with them I really didn’t need any clinging grit on them. I just give each one a once over with a copper wool pad and was ready to begin cooking in about half an hour.
What you need:
2 sticks of butter
5 cloves of garlic lightly crushed
1 large red onion, chopped
3 cups of dry white wine
2 lb bag of new potatoes – we used gold fingerlings as I enjoy their firm texture in contrast with the mussels
5 roma tomatoes in 1/2 inch thick slices
1 tbsp ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh parsley
6 lbs mussels in shell
Start by preheating the oven with the roasting pan in it to 400 degrees. Once it’s up to temp add the butter to melt, then the garlic and onion. Cook those until translucent and fragrant. Add the potatoes and cover the pan. Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring at the 10 minute mark.
After 20 minutes the potatoes should be slightly tender and browned. Add the wine and cook for another 10 minutes with the lid on. Add the tomatoes and the nutmeg and cook uncovered until the tomatoes are soft and cooked down then stir 1 cup of the parsley into the broth. Now it’s time to add the mussels. Add them quickly but in small batches, giving them another check for any with opened or broken shells, discarding those as you go. As soon as all of the mussels are in the pan put the lid back on and set the timer for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes check to see if they’re all open. Open means done and you don’t want to over cook them or they’ll taste like fish-flavoured bubble gum. if they’re not all open pull the pan out of the oven and cover again for about 2 minutes. The pan will still be hot enough to finish cooking them. Any which didn’t open should be discarded and those left should be stirred around to get coated in broth. Cooing words of encouragement at them works too. True story. Top the lot of it with parsley and serve with fresh baguette slices and a nice Shiraz.
We did our rock ‘n roll duty by putting a major dent into 6 lbs of mussels between the three of us, but even we gluttons couldn’t do away with the lot of them. The solution to that problem (because I’m not about to let those succulent little critters go to waste) was to shuck the remaining mussels and put them and the remaining broth in a bag and then into the freezer – I’ll use that for a lovely chowder at some other time.