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Mussels in Beer, Garlic, and Mustard

May 18, 2012
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Steamed mussels are so ridiculously easy to make, I don’t know why I always save them for a weekend “project.”  Really all you need to do is let the mussels soak for about 30 minutes, during which time you get your steaming liquid ready, steam them for 10 minutes, and that’s it.  Less than 45 minutes! And you feel like you’re eating something that came out of a restaurant kitchen.  It’s amazing what restaurants charge for mussels when it’s one of the easiest things to make on the menu.

This recipe is my new favorite for making steamed mussels.  The mustard somehow highlights all the other flavors for a really well-seasoned broth  that is just delicious.  Pair it with some crunchy freshly baked bread and that’s all there is to it.

You can serve these mussels to guests (who will probably only have eaten steamed mussels in a restaurant and will be very impressed), or you can have it as a quick week-night meal.  I don’t know of many recipes that easily fall into both of those categories!

Beer-Steamed Mussels with Garlic and Mustard
Adapted from The New York Times

If you use tarragon, make sure to chop it really finely, otherwise the flavor can be a little overwhelming.  Also do not add too much mustard, or it will be all you taste in the broth.  There are a number of different ways to prep your mussels, and this recipe originally said to just run them under cold water.  I like to let them sit in the water for at least 15-20 minutes to filter out some of the sand and brine inside the mussels.  The best way to store mussels after you bring them home is in a large dish in the fridge, covered with a damp towel so that they can breathe.  Most mussels are packaged in a mesh net, and make sure you cut open the net so they’re not all squished together.  When getting ready to use the mussels, throw away any that are open and won’t close when you tap them with you finger.  And, as you probably know, don’t eat the ones that don’t open after cooking!  Also, the NYT recipe calls for ale, but I just had lager… I’m fairly confident you could use almost any beer beer for this recipe, although personally I wouldn’t use a light beer, like Miller Lite, because light beer is gross and I never have it on hand.

2 pounds mussels in shells
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 full sprigs of thyme
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 large shallots, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup good beer
1 to 3 tablespoons butter, to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon or parsley
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Crusty bread, for serving

Soak the mussels in cold water for 20-30 minutes. If you see hairy clumps around the shell (called beards), use a sharp knife or your fingers to pull them off, then scrub shells well with a vegetable brush.

In a soup pot with a tight-fitting cover, heat olive oil, then add thyme, garlic, shallots and a pinch of salt and pepper. Sauté until shallots and garlic are softened, 3 minutes. Pour in ale and bring to a simmer. Add mussels and cover pot. Let mussels steam, stirring once or twice, until they open, 5 to 10 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer mussels to bowls. Discard any that have not opened.

Add butter, herbs and mustard to pan juices and bring to a boil. Whisk until butter melts, then taste and correct seasonings (add more butter if liquid tastes bitter). Pour over mussels and serve with bread for sopping up juices.

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