Mussels Two Ways


Mussel Chowder

I decided to look back at my recipes for mussels and update them. I’ve come to the realization it’s better all the way around to make the sauce separate, instead of cooking the mussels in the sauce. Let me explain…

In the past, I’ve written my recipes for mussel dishes using 2 pounds of mussels. Well, that amount never seems to be enough. Steve and I can eat a serious amount of mussels. Then I thought, what if a friend drops by unexpectedly! It just wouldn’t be right not to offer them a big bowl. My new method allows me to buy a lot more at one time. At $3.99 for 1 (2-pound) bag, I bought 6 bags. I couldn’t help myself!

The other issue is, preparing them in the sauce. If stored in a sauce of any kind, they can get “mealy”. Leaving the mussels in any sauce overnight causes them to break down quickly. They never taste the same or hold their integrity.

This method will take care of all these issues. First, is my Mussels In White Wine Sauce. I’m also going to share a great leftover recipe my Mussel Chowder.



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Fennel bulb

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Flat Leaf Italian Parsley



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The next day, MUSSEL CHOWDER!

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Prep Time: 1 hour (this includes prepping the mussels and veggies for the sauce)
Inactive Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 45 to 50 minutes (this includes sauce, times may vary slightly with the cooking of the mussels)
Yields: 2 servings ( 1 1/2 pounds per serving)
Yields: 4 servings of mussel chowder
Equipment: 2 (6-quart) saucepots, 1 large stockpot with a tight-fitting lid, a spider, small mixing bowl, Mandolin, chef’s knife

Directions For Prepping Mussels:
I bought six 2-pound bags (12 pounds) of PEI (Prince Edward Island) mussels at my local seafood store. Yes, that’s a lot of mussels but, after going through all of them, you may find ones that are open or cracked. This means they are no longer alive and are no good.

If you come across those that may be slightly open, you can do a quick test by giving them a good thump with your fingers, if they don’t close, get rid of them. They’re dead and no good. Then you may find some with a chipped shell from the shipping process. Get rid of them.

Next, when you’re scrubbing the outside shells, removing debris, and whatnot, you want to remove the *beard from each mussel. Look, everything that’s worthwhile means doing the work. Great seafood recipes are no different.

We start by getting to the seafood shop as soon as it opens, about 7 am. All six 2-pound bags (12 pounds of mussels) are packed on ice for the ride home. Then it becomes a family project. Due to the way the mussels are packaged you really don’t know how many of them may be damaged, from shipping, or just might be dead. It’s important to take this into consideration.

Note: During the cleaning of the mussels, they must remain as cold as possible. Once they’ve been cleaned, immediately return them to an ice-filled container.

Steve has two chairs set up outside with a couple of brushes, ice, and two buckets of water for cleaning and rinsing the mussels. He doesn’t mind doing the work because he knows about the payoff. It takes the two of us about 45 minutes to clean, remove all the beards, and discard any dead ones. When all is said and done, the 12 pounds of mussels, I bought, end up being a good 10 pounds of perfection. Keep in mind, we’re talking about 95% “shell weight” here!

Next, I fill up my sink with water adding in 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour. Using my hands, I swish the flour around until the water becomes cloudy. I add all the cleaned mussels into the water-filled sink. Mussels act like a filter and will drink the flour/water mixture and spit the water back out, along with any sand they may have inside their shells. This process only takes a couple of minutes. Then, I drain the water from the sink and spray the mussels down with clean water. I’ve divided the mussels into four large Tupperware containers each containing approx. 3 pounds of mussels. Top each container with ice then transfer the containers to the refrigerator. It’s time to start on my broth for the mussels.

2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
6 pounds of mussels, cleaned

Ingredients For Broth:
1 stick of butter, unsalted
2 tablespoons of red pepper flakes (optional)
1 bulb of fennel, thinly sliced
2 1/2 cups of sweet onions, diced
10 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons of Kosher salt
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 bottle plus 1/2 cup dry white wine, Chardonnay
1 quart of seafood stock
1 quart of chicken stock, unsalted
2 tablespoons of Pernod (anise-flavored liqueur)
1 teaspoon of *saffron
Italian parsley, roughly chopped for garnish

Directions For The Broth:
In a large saucepan over medium heat melt butter. Add crushed red pepper flakes, diced onions, and Kosher salt. Stirring frequently, cook the onions for 2 to 3 minutes until translucent. Add the fennel, continue stirring, and cook for another 7 to 10 minutes. Next, add the garlic and tomato paste. Continue stirring giving the tomato paste a chance to melt, another 1 to 2 minutes.

It’s time to add in the liquid.

Turn the heat up to medium-high, add the white wine, seafood stock, chicken stock, and Pernod (anise flavor liqueur). Finally, add the *saffron.

Once everything comes up to a boil, lower the heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, place a lid on the pot transfer to the back burner, set temperature to warm, or your lowest setting. Immediately before ladling the sauce over the mussels, add the parsley, stir to combine.

In the meantime, this gives me around 30 minutes to start steaming my mussels. Now, because there are so many, I have them divided into 4 containers in the refrigerator, as I explained earlier.

I’ve taken 2 containers of the mussels out of the refrigerator, discarding the ice. I’m doing this in two batches. I could probably fit all the mussels at one time into the pot, but I want to ensure that they all steam evenly.

In an empty large stockpot with the lid on, heating up over medium-high heat, add the first batch right into the large stockpot. Immediately pour the whole bottle of Chardonnay right over the top and quickly replace the lid. After about 3 minutes, open the lid, give them a big stir using a spider, to see how they’re coming along. You want all the mussels to have opened before removing them from the pot. I would say for each batch (3 pounds) it takes anywhere from 5 to 7 minutes. Times may vary slightly.

I pull out all of the opened mussels from the pot and place them into the same, cleaned out,  Tupperware containers that I used earlier. Repeat the process. No need to add any more wine to the pot. The first batch of mussels also released some of their juices as well. The pot remains on the heat and the liquid continues to boil. Add the second batch in carefully, and replace the lid once more. Again the second batch may take anywhere from 5 to 7 minutes.

Once all the mussels have been steamed, they’re ready for the ladling of the sauce. Oh yes, don’t forget to serve some crusty bread for dipping too! There you have it, my Mussels In White Wine Sauce. Mussels “Cozze Bianco”.

Note: Once the sauce for the mussels has cooled down, place in an airtight container with a lid. Refrigerate along with the leftover mussels until the next day when you’re ready to make the chowder. If you think you may need more liquid in the leftover broth, add chicken stock.

This couldn’t be easier. The mussels are already cooked. All you need to do is to remove the mussels from the shells. The base for the soup is pretty much ready, just a few more ingredients and the Mussel Chowder is ready.

Ingredients For The Mussel Chowder:
2 quarts of the prepared leftover broth (add additional unsalted chicken stock if needed)
2 1/2 cups of shelled leftover-cooked mussels
1 (15-ounce) bag of frozen yellow corn, thawed
2 cups of Yukon potatoes, peeled, approx. 1-inch dice
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 heaping tablespoon of cornstarch
2 tablespoons of heavy cream

Directions For The Mussel Chowder:
Place the leftover mussel broth on the stove over medium heat. Add the diced potatoes and diced red bell pepper. Bring this up a slow bubble, turn down the heat to medium-low and simmer, around 30 to 35 minutes, or until potatoes are fork tender.

Next, add the thawed corn  and shelled mussels, stir to combine. In a small bowl add 1 heaping tablespoon of cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water to make a thick *slurry or paste. Whisk together and pour the *slurry into the soup. Adjust the heat up to medium, bringing the soup up to a boil. You’ll see once the soup boils again, the soup starts to thicken, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the heat off, add 2 tablespoons of heavy cream and stir through. Garnish with some fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley. There you have it, my Mussel Chowder.

*Beard: The beard also known as byssus threads. They’re filaments that the mussel uses to secure itself to hard surfaces. they’re usually brownish and may appear somewhat like seaweed.
*Saffron is the little red threads that come from the Crocus flower.
*Slurry is a thickening mixture that made up of equal parts flour/cornstarch that’s prepared for use in making soups, stews, and sauces.