It’s a funny thing about mussels. They’re delicious, healthy, easy to prepare and cheap (generally five dollars a pound, which is pretty damn good for shellfish!). But people rarely think to make them at home. Sure, they’ll order them out… who hasn’t had a good Zuppa de Mussels served with hunks of crusty Italian bread or a bowl of tender mollusks steamed in beer and sided with a pile of crusty fries? We’ve seen them dotting saffron rice in Spanish Paella, served A la Plancha (most recently at Willow Road in Chelsea), and done up Southeast Asian style, loaded with Lime, Chili, Coconut Milk and Kaffir leaves.
We’re not going to tell you that mussels aren’t a bit of a pain to clean, they are. But once you sit them in a bowl of cornmeal to remove the grit (hint, hint), and pluck off their tiny beards (the rough brown threads the mussels use to attach themselves to rocks), you’ll have a seafood feast that’s just as terrific and likely less expensive than what you’ll find at restaurants. We’ve come up with our own recipe for Steamed Mussels with Citrus and Prosecco (inspired by the citrus-tinged version at Willow Road). You can use all the money you’ve saved to invest in a good bottle of the Italian bubbly!
Steamed Mussels with Orange and Prosecco
4 pounds live mussels
1 cup cornmeal
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons good olive oil
3 shallots, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
4 teaspoons orange zest
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 cups Prosecco
Juice from 1 large orange
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Crusty bread, for serving
To clean the mussels, put them in a large bowl with the cornmeal, and fill the bowl with water until the mussels are just covered. Soak for 30 minutes, so the mussels can disgorge any grit or sand. Drain and rinse the mussels, then remove the “beard” from each with your fingers. Discard any mussels whose shells are cracked, or aren’t tightly shut.
In a large non-aluminum stockpot, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook for 5 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for 3 more minutes, or until the shallots are translucent. Add the orange zest, parsley, prosecco, orange juice, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil.
Add the mussels, stir well, then cover the pot, and cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until all the mussels are opened (discard any that do not open). With the lid on, shake the pot once or twice to be sure the mussels don’t burn on the bottom. Pour the mussels and sauce into a large bowl. Serve hot with crusty bread.