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Jan 1, 2013 07:16 AM


Last night I made mussels in a wine sauce. When I cleaned/debearded the mussels, they were closed. When the recipe was done, the mussels opened but not wide enough to pull the meat out- once the shell was opened, the meat was tough pulling out. I did leave it in a bit longer than anticipated bc my company had not arrived yet. Could it be I over-cooked them?

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  1. Yes. I assume you used white wine. Cooking with white wine, especially with sea food, often makes the dish bitter and that is why I do not use it. JC said this to JP on one of their shows. Mussels need literally only a couple of minutes in a steam basket or in simmering water. If the water is boiling you may as well throw the little expensive lumps of rubber bands away. Any protein strand that gets above 212 F contracts and squeezes any moisture out leaving a rubber band. That applies to eggs and mussels etc. you name it.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Puffin3

      Sorry, but I must respectfully agree to disagree with your assumption of steaming mussels with white wine - something that reputable chefs around the world have been doing for probably a century.

      I myself have been steaming mussels (& other shellfish) in white wine for well over 30 years, & have NEVER had a problem with the end product being tough &/or rubbery.

      The plain & simple truth is that the OP overcooked the mussels. Period. Would have happened regardless of the type of liquid they were steamed in.

      Oh - & assuming your "JC" means "Julia Child" & your "JP" means Jacques Pepin - BOTH of these folks have numerous recipes in their many cooking tomes on steaming mussels in white wine, so I don't believe that any offhand comment made during a television show was meant the way you took it.

      1. re: Bacardi1

        Have to agree with bacardi here, Ive never worked in a restaurant where anything OTHER than white wine was used to steam mussels or clams.

        1. re: twyst

          try a 7.oz nip of may never go back to wine. Pernod is also popular for many recipes.

          1. re: fourunder

            Im a big fan of pernod for it, but have actually always used half wine/half pernod in that case (and finish with tarragon)

            Ill give beer a shot next time I cook mussels at home.

            1. re: twyst

              Give this recipe a look....great for dunking bread or Crostini...You can also combine clams...tIf you like meat, the sausage really flavor the broth well.


              Copied and Pasted:

              Here's a recipe that may have been popularized by a celebrity chef, but a friend had it on his menu in an upscale restaurant and it was a top selling item for him. Serve with fresh bread or grilled bread rubbed with garlic. The ingredients you will need are:

              Olive Oil
              Fresh Chopped Garlic
              Fresh Sliced Shallots
              Fresh Chopped Flat Leaf/Italian Parsley
              Andouille or Chorizo Sausage sliced or slivers

              Red Pepper Flakes (optional
              )Butter (optional)
              7-12 ounces of your favorite beer
              Salt and Pepper to taste

              In a hot pan with a good lid add Olive Oil and render the sausage, then add fresh chopped garlic, sliced shallots, salt, pepper, optional red pepper flakes and saute' until translucent. Now add the cleaned mussels and beer and cover the pan until the first signs of the mollusks opening. Remove lid, finish with parsley and optional butter at this time....give it a good shake and serve......I usually drizzle additional Olive Oil over the large family serving bowl or individual serving bowls.

              The entire cooking process, including prep should take you ten minutes or could certainly add Pernod in addition to the recipe....or in place of the beer

              1. re: fourunder

                Looks fantastic!

                We do a really similar dish where I work using merguez, clams and paparadelle. Its yummy! I really want to try it with chorizo now though! May give yourr recipe a try tomorrow and use some mexican beer to keep it festive :D

                Might even sub cilantro for parsley if Im feeling froggy

          2. re: twyst

            +1... I do it all the time, white wine, garlic, parsley, butter, maybe some stock.

            Moules à la Marinière
            Fresh Mussels Steamed open in Wine and Flavorings
            Recipe from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking

            2 cups light, dry white win or 1 cup dry white vermouth
            An 8- to 10-quart enameled kettle with cover, though I’ve made this in many other pots successfully
            1/2 cup minced shallots, or green onions, or very finely minced onions
            8 parsley sprigs
            1/2 bay leaf
            1/4 teaspoon thyme
            1/8 teaspoon pepper
            6 tablespoons butter
            6 quarts scrubbed, soaked mussels
            1/2 cup roughly chopped parsley

            Bring all but the last two ingredients to boil in the kettle. Boil for 2 to 3 minutes to evaporate its alcohol and to reduce its volume slightly.

            Add the mussels to the kettle. Cover tightly and boil quickly over high heat. Frequently grasp the kettle with both hands, your thumbs clamped to the cover, and toss the mussels in the kettle and an up and down slightly jerky motion so the mussels will change levels and cook evenly. In about 5 minutes, the shells will swing open and the mussels are done.

            With a big skimmer, dip the mussels into wide soup places. Allow the cooking liquid to settle for a moment so any sand will sink to the bottom. Then ladle the liquid over the mussels, sprinkle with the parsley and serve immediately.

      2. Thank you! Yes I used white wine and threw them in after it came to a boil.

        1. usually, overcooked clams and mussels will detach from the shells. I think you may have actually undercooked them....but it's really tough to say since there is no picture of your results. Unless the mussels were bad, at least some of the shell should have opened wider for easy meat removal.....the only other concern I could think of is the mussels were frozen live, which would cause the flesh to stick to the shell.

          1 Reply
          1. re: fourunder

            I agree with fourunder.Mussels can take a lot of heat before they shrivel. 5-6 minutes of steaming is normal for me.
            I think these mussels may have been mistreated before you got them, and didn't have much strength left when steamed, so they would not open properly.

          2. A properly cooked mussel barely gapes open, and with one half of the shell removed, fills the remaining shell 90%. By the time the shells have spread wide open, the meats have shrunk down to 50% or less, and have turned into rubber.

            Putting too many mussels into the pot is a guaranteed disaster. The heartiest shaking will not cook your bivalves evenly. It takes a 4 quart kettle to cook 1lb of mussels in one batch, and you really have to swish them around a few times while they steam. 1lb of mussels in a hot 4qt kettle will be great in about 2 minutes, and ruined 15 seconds later.

            1. When I cook mussels, I hover over the pot with a pair of tongs; as soon as one opens wide, I pluck it out. (This goes pretty quickly.) Laggards get a couple of extra minutes, then get tossed.