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Gourmet in 30 Minutes: Pasta with Mussels

Mussels are one of the most inexpensive, sustainable, quick-cooking and often overlooked types of seafood available on the market. Because the vast majority of mussels available in the grocery store are farm raised—cultivated on ropes in clean waters rather than harvested from the wild—you can expect them to be fairly clean and sand-free. Unlike wild clams, say, there is no reason to purge them before cooking. And, because mussels and other shellfish are routinely tested for toxin levels, there is little risk of contamination from high concentrations of toxic algae. The major risk of illness actually comes from dead mussels: those that were either stored improperly or kept around too long. Those with chipped shells or shells that remain open after tapping on them are a dead giveaway. Same with mussels that remain tightly closed after steaming: toss them in the compost bin.    

As a general rule of thumb, if the mussels are being served alone as a main course, allow for 1 pound per person. If they are being served as an appetizer or along with pasta, 1/2 pound per person will suffice.

 

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Select mussels with a fresh, briny ocean smell and tightly closed, shiny shells. Once you get home, the mussels can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a few days before cooking. Don’t place the shellfish directly on top of ice, even if they were displayed that way in the store. Instead, remove the mussels from their storage bag, place them in a bowl, cover with a damp towel and keep refrigerated. Occasionally drain any liquid that collects at the bottom of the bowl.

In addition to being a cheap source of low-fat protein, mussels are also a good source of Vitamins A, B and C, selenium, phosphorus, potassium, iron and omega 3-fatty acids. Health benefits aside, they are simply delicious.

To prepare mussels for cooking, scrub or rinse them well under cold water and remove the beards. When combined with a few aromatics, a splash of wine and a pat of butter, steamed mussels can make a simple weeknight meal at home feel almost like going out to a fancy bistro.

Whole Wheat Pasta with Mussels and Spinach

To clean the mussels, place them in a colander in the sink and rinse the shells under cold, running water. Remove any beards (the scraggly brown clump of hairs that appear between the seam of the shell) by pulling them out firmly, using a paper towel for better grip, if necessary. Discard any mussels with cracked shells and check any with open shells: tap gently on the shells and throw away those that don’t slowly close back up.

Ingredients

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8 oz. whole wheat linguine

2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

1 large shallot, thinly sliced

3 large cloves garlic, minced

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 lb. cultivated mussels, such as PEI mussels, cleaned and debearded

1/2 cup dry white wine

2 bay leaves

1 tsp. grated lemon zest

1 Tbs. unsalted butter

1 Tbs. lemon juice

5 oz. baby spinach

Cooking Instructions

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1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the linguine and cook until al dente, about 9 minutes.

2. While the linguine cooks, in a Dutch oven, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook until softened and translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Add the mussels, wine, bay leaf and lemon zest, season with salt and pepper and raise the heat to high.

3. Cover and cook 3 minutes, then stir the mussels and continue cooking, covered, until all the mussels have opened, about 3 minutes longer. Meanwhile, drain the linguine into a colander.

4. Using a pair of tongs, transfer the mussels to a bowl. Discard the bay leaves and any mussels that do not open. Stir in the spinach and cook until wilted. Off heat, stir in the butter and lemon juice and season to taste with additional salt and pepper.

5. Return the fettuccine and mussels to the pot and toss until the noodles are well coated in sauce and the mussels are evenly distributed. Serve immediately.

Serves 3 to 4.

Comments

1:07 PM on February 8, 2017 Jennifer Blackwell
YUM!! I'll have to cook this for my parents this upcoming weekend. My dad loves seafood.
12:43 PM on March 3, 2017 Mariah White
This looks delicious! I'll have to give it a try
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