Black Mussels are one of my favourite dishes to serve up when I have friends dropping in at short notice. They are under-utilised, affordable and are great for whipping up a dish that your guests can’t help to devour.
You can cook them in your favourite tomato sauce and serve with pasta or simply a crusty baguette. Throw them on the barbie and once cooked and in your bowl, pour over your favourite herb and garlic butter or try my Lime & Chilli Mussel recipe, below.
There is a strong urban myth that mussel growers would love to be debunked, “discard mussels that don’t open – that they are unsafe to eat.” Mussel growers know – as do most good chefs, there is nothing wrong with a mussel that refuses to open while being cooked. According to the Australian Mussel Industry, Australians have thrown away around 370 tonnes a year of good mussels because of an old wives tale!
When cooking mussels there are always a few that will stay closed after being cooked. This is because the mussel opens when the adductor muscle inside the shell breaks. If that adductor muscle does not sever or separate from the shell, then the mussel will not open.
You can cook the closed mussels a little longer or and if it still doesn’t open take it away from the other opened mussels and using a butter knife pry it open. If no odour is released and the meat is cooked its all good to go.
If buying fresh live mussels, look for mussels that:
- are closed and full of water
- if open, will close their shells if tapped, or move if the shell is squeezed
- do not smell ‘fishy’ or look open and dried out (these have long since died)
- don’t store mussels in airtight containers or plastic bags without holes or they will suffocate
- Live mussels should be placed in a bowl, covered with a damp cloth and kept in the warmest part of the refrigerator, usually the crisper (optimum 5°C), ensuring that the cloth remains damp.
Another great tip to cooking mussels is don’t remove them straight away once they have opened as you need to let the meat cook, you need to have a bit of shrinkage in the meat. Otherwise if you remove them from the heat straight after they open the texture of the meat would be jelly-like and stuck to the perimeter of the shell, making then unpalatable.
I shared my Lime & Chilli Mussels recipe with The Big Fish this morning all you need is your hands and a crusty baguette to devour them. The best way to eat these mussels is to forget using knives and forks and use the shell from the first mussel as an implement for scooping the others out of their shells. Enjoy!
LIME and CHILLI BUTTER MUSSELS
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
50mls lime juice
1/2 tablespoon sambal oelek
1kg mussels, cleaned
Combine pepper, salt and lime juice.
Combine the butter and sambal oelek.
Heat a char-grill on high. Cook the mussels on hot plate covered with a saucepan until open and cooked.
Melt the chilli butter and pour over the cooked mussels. Spoon over the lime pepper and serve with a crusty baguette.