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One of the most exciting “easy” dishes you can serve someone is a big, steaming bowl of mussels. Like roasting a chicken, learning how to steam mussels and clams is a simple process, and it’s also delicious, elegant, and impressive.
All it takes is a bag of fresh bivalves (that means mussels and clams) and a tasty broth. Once you have those two things, it’s literally a five-minute meal. If you want someone to think you really know what you’re doing in the kitchen, this is a dish you want in your repertoire.
Keep in mind, while this is a recipe for steaming mussels, they can be grilled, roasted, or sauteed as well.
How to Steam Mussels and Clams
A note on servings: clams are about 2 pounds per person, mussels are about 3/4 to 1 pound per person. Get rid of any that are already open. That means they’ve already died and you won’t know how long ago.
Step 1: Clean Your Bivalves
This can be as simple as putting them into a bowl and filling with water, agitating, and removing from the water. It’s important to remove them from the water and not pour the water out. This lets the sand and grit fall to the bottom of the bowl and not be re-deposited in the shells. If you see any “beards” (fuzzy stuff sticking off of the shell), cut them off.
Step 2: Prep Your Broth
You can make a broth of your own or buy one (you can even use a canned soup). Here are the directions for an easy homemade broth:
- Chop up an onion, two carrots, two ribs of celery.
- Add a few garlic cloves.
- Put them in a pot, cover with water.
- Add peppercorns and fresh herbs like thyme if you have them.
- Simmer for 45 minutes to an hour and strain.
- Once you’re strained you can season with salt and pepper.
Step 3: Cook It Up!
If you’re cooking a single serving, you can make this in a saute pan. Any more and you probably want to do it in a pot.
- Bring the broth to a boil and add the mussels or clams.
- Put a top on and shake the pan.
- Once the broth comes back to a boil, wait for them to open.
- When they’re open, they’re done. The mussels will happen quickly, like in 2 minutes. The clams will take a little longer, closer to 5. If any don’t open, toss those.
- Place the mussels or clams in a bowl.
- Taste the broth for seasoning, adjust if necessary, and ladle into a bowl with the mussels.
Those are the basics of how to steam mussels and clams. With this strategy under your belt, you can now experiment with all kinds of different ingredients like vegetables, herbs, and flavors in the broth. It’s all up to you.