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Nov 7, 2009 08:52 PM

What are mussels like?

I've always wanted to try mussels but think I might not like them. Are they similar to clams? Stronger flavor? Do you chew them or kind of swallow them whole? I'm just wondering if you can compare them to another food for me. Is there a certain dish I should try for the first time? Thank you for your help.

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  1. Larger and much softer than clams, with a muscle at one edge that is very much like a clam. The flavor is comparable, but maybe tastes a little more of the sea.

    I've known few people who didn't like them. First time, you should have the classic: Mussels Mariniere. Millions of recipes out there.

    1. Different from clams and oysters in that I've never heard of them being eaten uncooked. They're quite mild. You don't swallow them, the texture is soft but a bit chewy when they're prepared right. Sorry to contradict the last poster, but in general they are much smaller than clams.

      Definitely a "chicken of the seafood world" in terms of flavor.

      The classic dish is moules mariniere, here's a link, but there are tons of recipes out there.

      My family are big fish eaters, but we'd never tried mussels until my brother came back from Europe in the late 70's and told my Mom about the fabulous meal he'd had in a French bistro. I think she used the recipe in the old Joy of Cooking, and we were all immediately converted. Just be sure to keep an eye on them while they're steaming, as they can overcook very easily. Have grilled French or Italian bread to soak up the sauce!

      If you decide to try them in a restaurant, remember Anthony Bourdain's advice - never order the mussels special, and especially not on a Monday - it means they've been sitting around too long.

      8 Replies
      1. re: pasuga

        I've only heard of mussels being cooked. I really like them better than clams. They are fairly tender cooked. The Belgians are the real mussel eaters. I happened to meet a Belgian guy at a concert in Paris years ago and he talked me into going to Brussels to see the same singer perform a couple of nights later. He ordered a dish called (I think) mussels nostalgique (something like that). Wow! Very tasty broth. He told me that you should get the meat out of the first mussel and used the hinged empty shells as forceps to pull the meat out of the following mussels. Worked well and he seemed impressed as I was spooning up the broth later to sip. The funny thing was he ordered a steak after sounding like a mussel freak. Give it a shot or go with a friend and ask them to spare a couple. I think you'll like them.

        1. re: Feed_me

          i've been doing the mussel shell tweezer thing for years and have passed it on to numerous people. i'm really surprised this technique hasn't caught on more widely as it makes mussel eating sooo muchs easier.

          1. re: ScubaSteve

            i always found it more of a pain in the butt, personally.

            what i do do is take all the mussels out of the shell before eating (well of course i eat a few as im doing it) so i can just get my spoon in there and go instead of having to pick each out as i go. also makes it easier to have some broth w/ every mussel

            1. re: thew

              now that sounds like a lot of work.

              1. re: ScubaSteve

                its the exact same amount of work, isn't it? i mean every mussel needs to come out of the shell anyway. this way im getting a healthy bit of broth with the mussels together

                1. re: thew

                  i guess the total amount of work done is the same but to do it all up front is too much for me. i guess if i did it your way i'd finish shelling them and then NomNomNom, 30 seconds later, All Gone.

                  i like the liesurely use of my mussel-shell tongs and i take the broth with the nearest crusty bread along the way.

                  1. re: ScubaSteve

                    Interesting. I've never done the tweezer thing. I rip the top part of the shell off, then use the bottom to scoop up some sauce, then sip the sauce while using my teeth to separate the mussel from the shell. Definitely not the neatest way to eat them, but gets a good broth to mussel ratio in each bite.

            2. re: ScubaSteve

              I'll try the tweezer. But so far I've just used fingers or a fork, and can plow through them just about as fast as I could eat them, so I've always been a happy camper. It's not like lobster or crab, where there really is some work involved in getting out the smaller bits.

        2. Agreed with all other posts. Mild, tender, always cooked. Look for a marinara or a white wine/garlic sauce both with a good french bread to sop up the yummy sauce with. I would like to add, however that once they are frozen, they are totally ruined IMO. They are one bivalve that turn into garbage once frozen IMO. I can spot a frozen mussel after one bite. They get really firm, almost rigid. I just can't do frozen mussels. Not worth it in my book.

          1. Awww, gon on, take the plunge! You know you want to. NO ONE can tell you what they taste like. All they're really telling you is whether or not they like them. Wade in and try them for yourself. Me? I LOVE them! But what do I know?

            1. soft, briney, creamier in flavor than other bivalves, and perhaps slightly fishier . they talk well to almost any assortment of flavors - look at this menu - the technique for all of these is pretty much the same, but the favor profiles vary widely: