Here is an easy recipe you can make in your next cookout! Make it an appetizer or as one more item of a grilled table spread. This recipe can easily be made on the stovetop if the grill is not available.
This is one of those recipes that is so easy it is very difficult to forget. You will be surprised at how quick it is and the amount of flavor you get from the mussels.
I came across a similar recipe many years back when a good friend took me away from a difficult time in my life. Cooking has ALWAYS been a source of peace for me, and at the time, I was not cooking as much and feeling disconnected. My friend took me camping at the family cabin when a friend brought bags of clams and mussels to the party. The question was how to cook them? I drew back to my experiences and what was available around me.
Like I said before, I was invited to the cabin as a way for me to get away from a challenging period in my life, if even for just a few days. What transpired that weekend was reconnecting to my passion for cooking, and because I was not expecting to be cooking, I had no control over what ingredients I had available. The following is what was at my disposal.
- Salt and Pepper
- Lemons, or limes, or both
- Red Pepper Flakes, optional
See the recipe card for quantities.
A note on Mussels
If you do not know how to purchase mussels and clams at the grocery store or your local fishmonger, here is an excellent article from Bon Appetit that goes through the details for your selection.
When I made the mussels in the pictures, I never took photos of the process, but I have another recipe with a similar adaptation, my Beer Braised Short Ribs. I will use some of the steps from that recipe to explain this one. I must recreate these delicious mussels to get the grades, someone has to do the hard work, right? LOL.
- Dice one small or half of a large onion, three cloves of garlic, a handful of parsley, and cilantro, and place in a bowl or pitcher. Feel free to use the dried versions if you do not have fresh parsley or cilantro. Since it is a marinade, they will reconstitute and produce great flavor.
- Juice one to two lemons or limes and add to the onion mixture.
- Add a teaspoon of cumin, black pepper, and salt. Optional to add about a teaspoon of Red Pepper Flakes for added flavor and spice.
- Now for the fun part. At the cabin, this became an ongoing pan at the edge of the grill, which we kept refilling with beer, clams, mussels, and butter. But for the purposes of a recipe, I will say pour two standard beer cans of your favorite mild-flavored pale ale into the mix. Stir to mix. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
- Take a stick of butter and slice it into pieces. Place the butter pieces in a disposable aluminum pan.
- Place the mussels in the pan, and pour the marinade over it.
- Place the pan on the grill or stovetop and occasionally cook at medium heat if the beer does not cover the mussels.
Know when the mussels are cooked
You know the mussels are cooked when they begin to open. Please discard any mussel that did not open, as this could have been dead before cooking but failed to open as it died, and could potentially be harmful to ingest.
Do not use any mussels that have cracked shells or already open shells because these are considered dead mussels. Scroll down for more food safety tips on handling mussels.
Here are some substitutions if you would not like to use or would like to add besides mussels
- Clams - The first time I made this was with clams.
- Shrimp - This makes a great way to cook shrimp as it will not take too long to get them done
- Scallops - Especially Bay Scallops. Because bay scallops are so much smaller than sea scallops, it is a tasty way to cook them without losing them through the grill.
- Or omit the mussels and use the liquid to hold sausages and bratwurst as you cook them on the grill.
I had said this recipe could be either done on the grill as well as on the stovetop. I use disposable aluminum pans for the grill, but you can use a saute pan for both the stovetop and the grill. If using a saute pan on the grill, make sure that it can withstand the heat. Hands down, I recommend a cast-iron skillet; check these out!
The best way to store mussels is under refrigeration. I would place them in a container and toss a light covering of ice over them to maintain them at a chill temperature when I arrive at the house after purchasing them.
Before adding them to the marinade and cooking them, rinse the mussels to eliminate any sand or debris from the sea.
Discard any mussels that are open before cooking, for these are considered dead.
When cooking the mussels, the key is to remove them when they start to open. If you let them sit in the hot liquid, the mussels will lose their tenderness and become hard. Something that could turn off anyone trying mussels for the first time.
When it comes to seafood, the freshest, the better; do not sit or wait to cook it. Plan it, get it, cook it. Unless it is frozen, I will tell you to leave seafood frozen until you are ready to begin cooking.
- Cook to a minimum temperature of 145 °F (63 °C)
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched raw seafood
- Wash hands after touching raw seafood
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Use oils with a high smoking point to avoid harmful compounds
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove