Saturday, June 4, 2016

Steamed Mussels with Hard Cider and Bacon

When I have a hankering for mussels, I always wait until Friday when Costco stocks their display case with fresh-as-can-be mussels. I can usually pick up a 4 to 5 pound bag for less than $10. Then I head to the bakery and buy some French baguettes (which in almost every instance are still piping hot from the oven). You can't eat mussels without having french bread to dip into the broth.

The mussels sold at Costco (and most grocery stores) are farmed and therefore need no cleaning. The mussels are alive when you buy them. They will stay alive for up to 3 days if you place them in a bowl, cover them with a wet paper towel and stick the bowl in the fridge. When you steam them, the shells on the live mussels will pop open. The shells of dead mussels will remain closed. Toss those.

My favorite way to prepare mussels is steaming them in garlic and Chardonnay. But this Cook's Illustrated recipe caught my eye. Hard cider. Thyme. Bacon. And heavy cream for the richest possible broth. It is critical that you use a dry hard cider in this recipe. The drier the better. Sweet cider will ruin this dish. I'd suggest a dry cider from either Crispin or Angry Orchard.

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2" pieces
1 cup dry hard cider
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
4 pounds mussels
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons fresh minced parsley


  1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 500 degrees. Heat oil and bacon in large roasting pan over medium heat; cook, stirring occasionally, until bacon has rendered and is starting to crisp, about 5 minutes. Add cider, thyme sprigs and bay leaves and bring to boil. Cook until cider is slightly reduced, about 1 minute. Add mussels and salt. Cover pan tightly with aluminum foil and transfer to oven. Cook for 15 minutes, until most mussels have opened (a few may remain closed).
  2. Remove pan from oven. Discard thyme sprigs, bay leaves and any mussels that have not opened. Push mussels to sides of pan. Add cream to center and whisk until incorporated.  Then sprinkle parsley over mussels, and toss to combine. Serve immediately.

Wine Pairing: Pinot Noir

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