Garlic and leek mussels with potatoes

Over the weekend Nick and I made steamed mussels, one of our all-time favorite dishes. There are several great restaurants in D.C. that we frequent that specialize in mussels and frites (fries), but they are such a simple dish to prepare that we also love making them at home.

If you haven’t cooked mussels before, below is some advice on how to buy, clean and prepare this great meal.

Buying mussels:

  • We purchase mussels from a Whole Foods grocery store where they are sold individually and priced per pound; we typically buy 1-pound per person.
  • If you are buying them individually (some places sell them in small bags), look for mussels that are closed. Sometimes they gape open when they are resting, but if you tap them they should close pretty quickly; if they remain open toss them aside.
  • The seafood counter clerk will often give us a second bag full of ice to wrap around the mussels and keep them chilled while we finish shopping and head home – if they don’t offer ice we always ask, since they keep plenty behind the seafood counter.
  • At home, we store the mussels on top of a large bowl of ice in the refrigerator; we usually eat them the same day we buy them, but they will keep for at least a day. Replace the ice if it starts to melt too much, you want the mussels laying on the bed of ice and not sitting in icy water for an extended time. Frozen mussels = yuck.

Preparing mussels for cooking: 

  • Thoroughly rinse each mussel under cold running water. I also gently scrub them with a kitchen brush.
  • While scrubbing, debeard the mussels. Give the beard a forceful tug with your fingers and it should pull out; if it doesn’t come out after a few tugs you may need to cut it off with kitchen shears.

  • Place the mussels in a bowl of icy, cold water and let them sit for about 10 minutes – this will cause the mussels to spit out any sand or mud.

  • Remove the mussels to another bowl and drain the dirty water (while saying eww).

  • All of the mussels should be closed after the ice dip, but if any remain slightly open toss them since they probably aren’t good.

  • Refill the clean bowl with more icy cold water and place the mussels back into the bowl until they are ready to use. This double dip method really helps to remove all the sand and mud hiding inside – no one likes crunchy mussels!

Cooking mussels:

Two of our favorite ways to prepare mussels are in garlic butter and coconut curry. This time we made a sauce of garlic and leek with potatoes.

What you’ll need (recipe for two servings):

  • 2 pounds mussels
  • 2 potatoes, diced
  • 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 leek (remove root and cut just below the dark green leaves, halve the remaining portion lengthwise and chop)
  • 1 celery stalk chopped
  • 1 shallot chopped
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • ½ tsp thyme
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • ½  cup white wine (and more for drinking 😉
  • ¼ cup heavy cream

To prepare the mussels:

  • Boil water and cook the diced potatoes 10-12 minutes until tender (I pre-cooked these since they take longer than the mussels to cook.)
  • In a large stockpot, heat the oil and butter on medium heat.
  • Add the chopped leeks, scallions and celery and cook until they begin to soften, about 6-7 minutes.

  • Add garlic, thyme and pepper and pour in the wine.
  • Add the cooked potatoes and let everything cook for another minute.
  • Drain and add the mussels.

  • Put the lid on the pot and let the mussels steam for 8-10 minutes. All of the mussels should have opened, if not, steam for another 2 minutes.

  • Remove lid, push the mussels away from one side and stir in the cream.
  • Pour the mussels and sauce into a large serving bowl.
  • Toss any mussels that don’t fully open.

Serve the mussels with crusty bread to mop up the sauce or fries (or both if you are gluttonous like us 🙂 We prepared store bought fries, but we love this recipe for homemade garlic fries.

Nick also pre-made a spicy mayo dipping sauce for the fries, which was so tasty!

  • 3 Tablespoons mayo
  • 1 Tablespoon Sriracha chili sauce
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon soy sauce

You can easily remove the mussels from the shell with a small fork, but you can also use an empty shell as a “pincher” to pull the meat out of the other mussels.

Chefs’ verdict: Mmmmmm – an emtpy bowl of mussel shells means we’ll definitely make this recipe again!!

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