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Most mussels that are available now are grown on mussel farms. They are cultivated on long ropes along coastlines and in tidal pools or bays. The most common variety is the blue mussel. These are dark blue with the shells ranging sometimes to almost black. They are usually 2 – 3 inches long but I like to purchase smaller mussels. I think they are sweeter than the larger ones.
Greenshell New Zealand mussels are now widely available in America. They are slightly larger and have a striking emerald green shell. The flesh is softer and the flavor soft and subtle.
Mussels, like all live shellfish, are best kept as cold as possible. I buy mussels only at fish counters where the other fish appears fresh and is kept well chilled. Look for clean mussels with tightly closed shells – open shells indicate that the mussel is dead. Don't buy mussels with chipped or broken shells.
Cook mussels the day that you buy them. They can be stored overnight or longer in the bottom of the refrigerator inside strainer set over a bowl. Place some ice on top of the mussels and change it frequently to keep them as cold as possible.
Because most of the mussels are now farm raised on ropes they are not as likely to be gritty and don't need cleaning like clams (see Give up the grit). They will often still have a “beard.” These are the “byssal threads” that mussels use to anchor themselves to rocks and such (or the rope when they are farm raised). Remove it by pulling toward the hinge not the open end of the mussel.
4 ounces mussels = 97 calories, 2g fat, <1g sat fat, <1g mono fat, 13g protein, 4g carbohydrates, 324mg sodium, 32mg cholesterol