We serve local mussels whenever we can get them. I like how substantial and flavorful they are compared to some of the farmed ones. When they come in really large, they do seem to scare people a little. But a good fresh two-bite mussel is fantastic baked and stuffed — people cannot get enough of them. The farmed ones are undeniably easy, since they arrive quite clean. Wild-picked mussels can be muddy and need to be scrubbed or tumbled clean.
When you come upon some perfect three-inch mussels, make the most of their briny, savory juices by sautéing them with just a little white wine. Adding the butter and herbs at the very end keeps their flavors fresh.
[Recipe Head] Sautéed Mussels
1½ lbs. mussels, cleaned and beards removed
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 large shallot, sliced
1/4 cup of rough-chopped mixed fines herbs (parsley, chervil, tarragon, chives)
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Make sure the mussels are clean and fresh and give them a quick sniff test. Discard any bad mussels.
Heat olive oil to shimmer, add sliced garlic and shallots, and gently sweat but do not brown them. Add mussels and white wine and cover for 4-6 minutes or until mussels begin to open.
If mussels are very fresh, you may need to help some of them open, using a dull knife.
With mussels still in the pan, add the butter and the chopped herb mixture. Bring to a full simmer, stirring once or twice and adding a nice pinch of kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Once butter is incorporated into the sauce, remove mussels and pour the sauce over them.
Great with crusty fresh bread or garlic toast for dipping in the broth.