Adventurous eaters like you deserve a gold star. So go for it. And trust me, mussels are delicious no matter how you serve them.
A good place to start would be with a mussels and pasta dish for supper this evening. Proportions are for two people. Not hard either once you get the hang of it. Here is what you will need to get started:
• 1 kg (2 pounds) farm raised mussels, rinsed and sorted
• 100 ml (1/2 cup) white wine or dry vermouth
• 40 grams (3 tablespoons) olive oil
• 70 grams (2 1/2 ounces) linguine, measured dry ** See Carbohydrates below
• couple cloves smashed garlic
• handful chopped parsley
As you read through the instructions, keep in mind the method requires multi-tasking. Rinse mussels and check each one, removing any that do not close when tapped. Add dry vermouth or white wine to 3 liter pot, pour in mussels, raise heat to high, cover, and steam mussels until they open. Discard any that do not open. As mussels begin to open, remove the meat from the shell being careful to catch every drop of cooking liquid, a delicious combination of “mussel liquor” and wine. Discard shells.
Meanwhile, start pasta water to boil. Add olive oil to a sauté pan and gentle sweat crushed garlic. Add chopped parsley. Set aside until mussels are cooked and shells discarded. Then add mussels along with the cooking liquid to the olive oil mixture. Add salt to boiling water and cook pasta al dente. Combine with mussels, olive oil, garlic herb mixture, and serve.
Taste always comes first. That’s the delicious part and it’s easy to like these tender little mussels sweet like the sea, steamed in wine, steeped in olive oil, garlic, fresh herbs, and served over linguine.
Some of us are adventurous eaters and some of us just want good taste. And that’s okay. Next step for folks like you is to go out, get yourself some very fresh recently harvested mussels, start cooking up a storm, and have fun.
Wait a minute! What about nutritious and sustainable?
Curious eaters like you deserve transparency and full disclosure. You expect more from the plate and have the patience to dig a little deeper. An ingredient audit, nutrient analysis, and allergen alert provided below.
Mussels – Mussels grow wild in shallow waters along the east coast from Long Island to Newfoundland and are sustainably farmed in Canada.
The mussels I used for the recipe were farm raised from Prince Edward Island. The mussel seed is collected from the wild, not hatcheries, and mussels are harvested from collector ropes suspended in the ocean. Mussels feed on natural food particles, which are present in the water column and do not require feed. They get all their nourishment naturally, from the pristine ocean waters that surround them while they grow.
My preference is farmed from an environmental perspective and from a convenience perspective. Farmed mussels aren’t muddy or covered in silt and usually don’t have “beards” those pesky little hairy outgrowths found frequently on wild mussels.
Linguine – Refined durum wheat slow dried bronze cut imported from Italy.
Olive Oil – Extra virgin olive oil from California. Harvest date October – November 2015.
Dry Vermouth – Good quality imported from France. White wine is a good substitute.
Per serving (1/2 recipe about 1 cup): 520 CALORIES
25g fat, 470mg sodium, 35g carb, 28g protein.
Job one when running numbers is to be as accurate as possible.
The challenge for this dish is the mussels. There is good data on both raw mussels and steamed mussels in my database, but none to tell me the ratio of raw in shell mussels to steamed mussels on the plate. Further investigation reveals the problem. The amount of “mussel liquor” another name for the seawater trapped inside the mussel shell, is too variable for weight based calculation.
So I ran the numbers with steamed mussels using my rule of thumb 20% cooked yield for mussels as purchased in shell. However, if I were doing this calculation for a restaurant menu label, I would recommend laboratory analysis to capture the addition sodium in that trapped seawater.
Calories – the metric of choice for portion sizing.
Restaurant portions of course are large and 1000 calories or more per plate is routine. More relevant is to browse through recipes developed for home cooks so I examined about a dozen from various online sites. Results reflect a range from 470 to 1200 with most clustered between 600 to 800 calories per serving. Putting my recipe into context, a 520 calorie portion size is moderate.
Fats – Olive oil, considered a healthy fat, is the primary source, but a smaller fraction come from the mussels. Like all seafood, mussels are a source of omega 3 fatty acids (1 mg per 100 grams cooked).
Salt – The respectable level of 470mg sodium per serving is probably an under-estimate because as noted above the “mussel liquor” is not included in the calculation.
Mussels also bring minerals like manganese, selenium, iodine, iron, phosphorus, zinc, magnesium, copper, potassium. Sodium is just part of the total mineral package.
** Carbohydrates – My recipe calls for a small serving of linguine. The usual amount found in most recipes is 2 ounces (56 grams) per person. However many classic recipes specify larger amounts, probably because up until recently the standard rule of thumb for recipe from Italy was 100 grams (3 ½ ounces) per serving.
Refined grain has the fiber removed. The linguine is deliciously chewy when cooked al dente, but had I used whole wheat linguine, the fiber count would have been significantly higher.
Protein – Mussels are an excellent source of protein (24 grams per 100 grams steamed). Smaller fraction of plant protein from the linguine.