One of the most environmentally sound types of shellfish available are the mussels. These little creatures are inexpensive and plenty. Mussels can be prepared smoked, boiled, steamed, roasted, barbecued or fried in butter.
TO STEAM MUSSELS
Once the mussels have been thoroughly cleaned, remove and discard any shells that are open or broken.
Mussels only need to be steamed in a tiny amount of liquid, due to the fact that when they open up during cooking, they release their own liquid, which makes a tasty broth or sauce. If there is too much liquid, the flavour of the mussels' own liquid will be diluted and completely lost. Take care when seasoning the broth, as the liquid from the mussels is quite salty and does not need too much more salt.
Mussels can be steamed in any liquid but most cooks use white wine, water or both. Once the mussels are cooked, they can be served immediately or the meat can be removed and then added to another dish when needed.
One pound (450 g) of mussels is usually enough for one person.
Pour 1 or 2 cups of white wine or water into a large saucepan, add the mussels and cover the pan. Remember that not a lot of liquid is needed.
Cook on a high heat and bring the liquid to the boil.
When steam is released from the sides of the pan, reduce the heat and simmer the mussels until they begin to open. This should take about 5 minutes. During cooking, shake the bottom of the pan, so that the mussels are redistributed and cook evenly.
After several minutes, keep an eye on the mussels and try to remove each mussel as it opens. This can be a tedious task but will be well worth it, as each mussel will be cooked just right.
When all the mussels have opened, they can be served in their shell, in a bowl, with the broth strained and then poured over them. Discard any mussels that have not opened.
TO BAKE OR GRILL MUSSELS
First, steam the mussels as described above in order to open the shells and remember to discard unopened mussels. Then:
Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) or the grill to a medium to high heat.
Remove the empty shell of the mussel and place the shells containing the meat on a baking tray side by side.
Drizzle a little olive oil over the mussels, sprinkle them with salt, pepper, crushed garlic and parsley and then top them with dry breadcrumbs.
Bake in the oven for about 7 - 10 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are a golden brown colour. If using the grill, the cooking time may be less.
Mussels can be kept for up to 4 – 5 days in the fridge. Mussels in the shell should be refrigerated between 32o and 45 o F. Placing them in a bowl and covered loosely with a clean, damp towel will ensure its freshness. Raw and cooked mussels should be stored separately to avoid cross contamination.