Monday, March 7, 2011

Moules & Me

Mussels! Or as the French say, les moules! I plucked these beauties from the shore of Muscongus Bay in Friendship, Maine after having ignored their bounty for years. As much as I've always cherished steamed clams with melted butter and raw oysters, I was never interested in eating the mussels possibly pulled from the shore growing up. All we ever did was cut our feet on the shells when trying to swim in the absolutely frigid waters and tug through the mud which was like quicksand (we eventually wised up and got those surfing shoes).

When I finally tried mussels, I fell in love. Simply steamed in white wine is perfection but I have also availed myself of the smoker that my parents have to impart an entirely different flavor.

Goat Town, a restaurant in Manhattan, was the impetus for writing this post. There, the delicious mussels are beer steamed with Berkshire bacon, mayonnaise, parsley. I don't know the exact proportions but the cooking method is always pretty much the same: after scrubbing the beards off of your mussels (a particularly arduous task by the way), throw everything into a pot! Put on the stove over medium low heat and when the mussels open, they are done. Sop up the resulting broth with a hearty and rustic grilled baguette.

My friend Reggie and I happened to be talking about our love affair with mussels the other day and she further submitted these recipes to me adapted respectively from the South Philly Grill and Osteria Romana.

South Philly Grill Mussels
2 lbs. of wild Atlantic mussels
¼ cup of water
1 bottle clam juice
Small bunch of parsley
6 garlic cloves
3 tbsp. olive oil
Crushed red pepper to taste
Tomato paste (optional)

Saute finely diced garlic in oil, add chopped parsley. In a big pot pour water, add cleaned mussels. Pour in cooked garlic, parsley and oil mixture. Add clam juice. Add red pepper flakes to taste. Serve with a loaf of Italian bread. Add lots of red pepper for a spicy dish that will make you sweat. Great with beer. Some people like to have a little bit of a red sauce, so add tomato paste for this.

Osteria Romana Mussels
This recipe is served with game, roast or grilled meats. A young chef made the mistake of making the Whiskey Sauce for mussels and accidentally made a superb sauce. It was her famous dish at Osteria Romana, a popular restaurant in Philadelphia throughout the eighties. Whiskey Sauce is courtesy of La Cucina, The Complete Book of Italian Cooking.

1 small bunch parsley
2 garlic cloves
1 small onion
¼ tarragon
1 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. flour
A little milk
¼ cup cream
2 egg yolks
Salt and pepper
¼ cup whisky
2 tsp. Dijon mustard

Finely chop the parsley together with garlic. Chop the onion into fine dice and add this to the parsley and garlic with the tarragon. Heat butter and sauté onion and herbs for a few minutes. Blend the flour in a little milk and stir this into the ingredients in the pan to obtain a smooth mixture. Now stir in the cream and continue mixing over a very low heat, then remove from the heat. With a hand or electric which and add the egg yolks one at a time, then add salt and pepper to taste. Place over a bain-marie and continue heating, stirring constantly until sauce thickens, but do not allow to boil. Pour in the whisky a little at a time and lastly add the mustard. Remove from heat and serve warm in a sauceboat.


  1. Hi Peter, I enjoyed this article. It reminded me of the beaches in Cape Elizabeth, Maine when I was younger. I'm going to try your recipe.

    Mike B.

  2. Love the picture. Now I need to find the best mussels in both cities. I want the large ones from the Atlantic. Should be fun research.