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Entertaining

Flex Your Mussels
May 3, 2011 • Posted by Jennifer Perillo

After tasting my first bowl of mussels, prepared with a spicy, garlic-laced tomato sauce in my early 20s, I was instantly hooked. It became my go-to appetizer whenever we visited a small Italian restaurant nearby. As time went on, I discovered mussels aren’t just for appetizers or red sauce either. A classic French preparation with shallots, white wine and parsley paired with a crusty baguette makes for a filling and quite satisfying dinner.

Making them at home, though, has always felt a bit of a to-do. I remember years ago, hanging over the kitchen sink, scrubbing the shells to remove the barnacles, wondering why I didn’t just leave mussels on my restaurant radar. Preparing them at home just seemed too much a chore. Then kids came along and I figured they would roll their eyes, and push them aside anyway.

Luckily, my outlook has changed on this quick-cooking shellfish. There’s a reason Prince Edward Island mussels are featured on high-end restaurant menus. Their flavor tends to be sweeter and fresher tasting than that of wild mussels. They also arrive at fish markets relatively clean, almost free of the clingy barnacles that can be time consuming to clean.

The real moment of truth arrived when I served them for dinner one summer evening last year. As the pot came to the table, the kids peeked inside. Eyebrows raised a moment, but the sight of bread and butter offered reassurance when I said it was perfect for dipping into the broth. Now, instead of worrying about the kids liking mussels, I buy extra to make sure there’s enough to go around.

Garlic, Parsley & Cream Mussels
Serves 2

This recipe is easily doubled or tripled—just be sure to use a larger sized pot. Be sure to keep a close eye since the mussels cook incredibly quick.

1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 cup prosecco
1 pound Prince Edward Island mussels, cleaned and scrubbed
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
Pinch red pepper flakes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  1. In a 4-quart deep pot, heat the oil over medium flame. Add the garlic, and saute until fragrant and lightly golden. Pour in the prosecco and simmer for 1 minute. Add the mussels, cream, parsley and red pepper, cover the pot and cook at a simmer until the mussels have opened and are cooked through, about 5 minutes.
  2. Remove cover, season with salt and pepper, if needed. Discard any unopened mussels before serving.

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