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Friday, November 6, 2009

Stuffed Mussels

There are so many ways to prepare mussels but stuffing and adding them to a freshly made pot of Marinara Sauce is certainly one of my favourite ways of preparing them.

These were always a hit with my kids while growing up mainly because the actual mussel meat was hidden by the soft, tasty bread crumb, cheese and egg filling. This made them more appealing to eat since they didn’t have to face the interesting look of the mussel itself. The sauce in which the mussels are cooked is amazingly fragrant and great served on linguine or spaghetti

Although mussels can be found all over the world, two varieties are most commonly found on the market. The blue mussel, also called the black or Mediterranean mussel is found along the cool waters of the Atlantic coast and seems to be more readily available.

The second variety is the New Zealand green-lipped mussel also known as the green or green shelled mussel. I have never knowingly come across this variety but it would be interesting to compare the tastes.

My personal preference is mussels harvested from Prince Edward Island but no matter which variety you are cooking with freshness is a must.

As for any variety of fish or shell fish, mussels should smell fresh not fishy and should be consumed as soon as possible after purchase.
Same day consumption is preferable and I don’t recommend keeping them for more than one day before cooking.

I remember my father bringing home mussels that had rougher looking thicker shells with other small shell fish growing on them. These had a very rustic look and were probably harvested from the wild. Cultivated mussels have darker, thinner shells , a very clean appearance and are much easier to wash and open.

This is probably the first time this recipe has been documented and I have done my best to assign measurements to the ingredients used.

Stuffed Mussels

15 to 20 medium size mussels
2 slices soft bread (coarsely grated to make large fluffy crumbs)
1/2 cup grated cheese (Parmigiano or Crotonese)
2 eggs
2 tablespoons fresh chopped Italian parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Preparing the Mussels
  1. Remove mussels from the net bag and wash in slightly salted water, place in colander to drain.
  2. Remove beard from the side of the mussel by pulling it towards the front end of the mussel.
  3. Insert clam knife into the side of mussel and slide knife away from the hinged end until it partially opens. Be careful not to detach the two sides of the shell. Set aside.

Stuffing the Mussels

  1. Beat eggs with a fork until fluffy. Add cheese, bread crumbs, parsley, salt and pepper and blend well.
  2. With a teaspoon or pastry bag fitted with a plain round tip fill each mussel ¾ full of stuffing. Set aside.

Cooking and Serving the Mussels

  1. Prepare Marinara Sauce and cook for about 20 minutes.
  2. Add prepared mussels to the sauce, spoon some sauce over each mussel and cook for approximately 10 more minutes or until stuffing sets. (firm to the touch)
  3. Remove mussels onto a serving dish and serve remaining sauce over linguine or spaghetti.

Notes, Tips and Suggestions

  • Although slices of white bread were originally used in this recipe, whole wheat and even oat bran bread are good choices, better still use your favourite variety of soft bread.
  • Use soft bread crumbs not dry, this ensures a very soft textured stuffing.
  • For best results in grating soft bread freeze the slices first.
  • After opening mussels drain any excess water to prevent a watery Marinara Sauce.
  • After mussels are cooked you can remove the top shell and serve them on the half shell instead.
  • These also make great little appetizers.
  • If mussels are not used the same day as purchased, place in a bowl, cover with a wet tea towel and pack some ice on top. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Happy as a Clam…But Safety First

Opening or shucking any clam, mussel or oyster for that matter can be very dangerous if the proper tool is not used.

The clam knife, also known as a shell fish knife or shucking knife makes the process easier and definitely safer.
This tool is strong and has no sharp or cutting edges unlike regular kitchen knives.

The one I own was given to me by my father many years ago and as you can see is well worn.
A little research revealed that it's headed for the museum.

More modern and well designed knives are available at Williams-Sonoma and Bed Bath and Beyond should you want to add one to your kitchen tool drawer.

It's a good idea to invest in this tool if you plan to open a few shell fish.

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