As our quest for a meatless Lent continues, we have felt challenged at times to come up with recipes that are easy, fun, and, most importantly, deeply satisfying. While we have made some amazing soups, pastas, stir fries, and main entrees, there have been times where something was missing. It is not the meat that we miss so much (believe me, we do miss it. bad.), but rather the feeling that the meal is truly complete. This led us to think outside of the box a bit more, and focus on meals that we truly love to eat, either at home or at a restaurant. There are dozens of recipes that fit into this category, but very few that are meatless. We considered several options but kept coming up a bit short. Then we remembered a meal that is not just dinner, but an overall experience. One that is quick, easy, rustic, sophisticated, deeply flavored, respectful of the ingredients, and versatile enough to never get old. We, of course, thought of mussels.
If you have never had mussels, you are missing out on a really fun and easy dish. When cooked properly, they have the great ability to both take on and impart flavor to whatever ingredients they are paired with. They are great on their own, amazing in soups, and can transform a simple pasta dish into a high-end gourmet meal. They are on the menus of some of the best restaurants in the country, and you often pay a premium for them. The thing is though, that they are dead easy to cook and you don’t need to go to a restaurant to enjoy them. All you need is a deep saute pan, some herbs, garlic, and a bit of flavorful liquid to steam them in. Pair with a loaf of warm and crusty French bread for dipping in the rich broth, a light veggie side-dish, and a glass of your favorite beer or white wine, and you have a meal that is simply, complete.
Note: This recipe is incredibly flexible. We chose to take a very simple route, but almost any variation will yield a good result. If you think there is a combination of ingredients that would go well together, they probably will.
Beer Steamed Mussels
A Newly Feds original recipe.
Serves 2, but could easily be doubled (or tripled) to serve more.
- 1-2 pounds of high-quality fresh mussels
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1-2 tablespoons of minced garlic
- 1 small red onion, diced
- 18-24 ounces Belgian or German beer (white wine works well here too)
- 1 medium tomato, diced
- 4-5 tablespoons of flat leaf parsley (basil would work here as well), chopped with some reserved for garnish
- Good French bread, for dipping
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Remove the mussels from their paper wrapping. Inspect each mussel individually, discarding any that are badly chipped, cracked, or broken. If a mussel’s shell is open, tap lightly on a hard surface. The shell should close. If it does not close, even slightly, discard. Rinse the mussels in cool water to remove any grit on the shells.
- In a large heavy-bottomed saute pan, heat the olive oil and saute the onion and garlic over medium heat until translucent. We chose to go heavy on the garlic, but you can go lighter (or heavier even) as you see fit.
- Place the mussels in the pan, being careful to leave enough room to place the lid on the pan. Slowly pour the beer over the mussels, covering approximately 2/3 of the shells. We used 1 and 1/2 beers (12 ounces). Be careful as the beer will foam upon hitting the hot pan.
- Immediately place the lid upon the pan, and steam the mussels for about 6-8 minutes, or until the shells have opened. Do not overcook, as the mussels can become tough. Add 3/4 of the chopped parsley. Stir with a wooden spoon or spatula. This will ensure that the flavorful liquid (often referred to as the liquor) released by the mussels is incorporated. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Transfer the mussels to serving bowls, discarding any mussels that have not opened in the cooking process. Ladle a generous portion of the broth over the mussels.
- Sprinkle the fresh tomato over the mussels and garnish with the remaining parsley.
- Serve with several slices of warm bread. Be sure to try dipping the bread in the broth. This often proves to be one of the best parts of the dish.