The scent of the mussels steaming is a glorious aroma that fills the entire kitchen with the essence of the sea. And as the steaming liquid heats, it warms your home with the aromatics of garlic and mirin – aromas almost guaranteed to make anyone’s mouth water in anticipation. This is the kind of recipe you’re going to want to reach for any time you’re craving shellfish.
How to make amazing steamed mussels
This spicy mussels recipe was designed as the star of a no-stress seafood menu. Although I first published this spicy mussels recipe in my cookbook, Romancing the Stove, I’ve come to realize that this is not a recipe to file away for Valentine’s Day. Sure, it’s a great romantic dish but it’s also a crowd-pleaser. But the first thing you need to do is master the technique of steaming mussels. (Don’t worry, it’s easy!)
How to prep your mussels and debeard
You’ll want to rinse the mussels in cold water. The most important step is to remove any mussels with broken shells as well as those that don’t close if you tap on the shell. These are bad mussels. Discard them immediately. Some fishmongers sell their mussels debearded. But if you’re mussels have a little, hair-like clump of fibers on the side, (the beard), you need to pull it off. Here’s a detailed description of how to debeard a mussel.
How to steam mussels
You’re going to cook the mussels in a wok or sauté pan. Just make sure your pan has a tightly fitting lid. You need it to trap the steam. This is my absolute favorite non-stick sauté pan if you’re looking to invest in great equipment. The important thing is that you don’t let the mussels overcook. Left on the stove for two long, the tender meat will turn to rubber. They will only need to cook over medium heat for about 4 minutes, just until the shells open. Discard any mussels that do not open.
This easy mussels recipe offers incredible richness with just a handful of carefully chosen ingredients. You’ll love the simplicity of steaming mussels in this spicy broth. The majority of the ingredients, including garlic, olive oil and chicken stock are pantry staples. But here’s some more information on the recipe’s slightly more exotic ingredients:
The main ingredient in this mussels dish is, obviously, mussels. If you’ve never cooked mussels before, be prepared for a little prep. (See my notes above on prepping your mussels. Once you’ve mastered this, you can make any mussels dish.)
Can you use frozen mussels?
I do not recommend using frozen mussels for this chili mussels recipe. Freezing changes the texture of shellfish, which becomes very obvious in simple preparations like this one.
If you’re a fan of mussels, then you’ve probably tried them steamed in white wine. But for this recipe, the mussels are steamed in mirin, a subtly sweet, Japanese rice wine. Mirin has acidity, similar to a dry white wine, but it has a slightly different weight and feeling on the tongue. You can buy mirin online if you don’t know where to find it locally. I use it in the recipe because I like the way it complements the fish sauce.
What is fish sauce? Fish sauce is one of the most intense flavorings I ever use. Be careful not to put too much in any dish. It is powerful! Fish sauce is made from salted, fermented fish. It really does sound terrible put this way, but the flavor it creates is earthy, salty and addictive. It’s sold in Thai markets, Asian grocers and some mainstream grocery stores with a good international foods section. Or you can order it online.
The sriracha is what makes this healthy shellfish recipe sublimely sexy in my mind. But what is sriracha?
This traditional Thai condiment is a chili pepper paste flavored with vinegar and sugar. It gets its heat from red jalapeno peppers, which means that it isn’t super spicy. It just adds a bold zing to whatever dish lucky enough to get a dash of this brightly colored sauce. Although it used to be found primarily in Asian markets, sriracha is now sold pretty much everywhere. But if you can’t find it at your grocery store, you can always order sriracha online.
The rest of the ingredients are common pantry staples. They include:
- fresh garlic, finely minced
- avocado or olive oil
- chicken stock
- freshly squeezed lemon juice
- scallions, (It’s optional but I think they add great flavor.)
- cilantro, (This one is optional. You could substitute with fresh parsley if you want to.)
How long can you keep leftover mussels?
Leftover cooked mussels should be refrigerated right away in a shallow, airtight container. Do not keep leftovers of this mussels dish for more than three days.
Are mussels healthy?
Did you know that mussels are among the best animal sources of protein and they’re rich in several other nutrients The protein in mussels is easy to digest, which means your body has more of a chance to get the full benefit of that protein. Mussels are a source of iron, vitamin B-12 and mood-boosting Omega-3 fatty acids. In this recipe, the mussels are steamed with a sauce made from additional healthy ingredients, including bone broth, garlic and scallions. fresh citrus and chiles in the form of sriracha sauce. All-in-all, this is a healthy dish you can enjoy often to reap the benefits of mussels’ nutrition.
Why this spicy mussels recipe is the right recipe for a romantic dinner
As an expert on aphrodisiac foods, I’m asked all the time to describe a “perfect” romantic dinner. I’m always quick to answer that the meal has to be something both romantic partners enjoy. So in this case, if mussels are your thing, here’s why you should serve this dish on date night.
This is an easy recipe to prepare and one that can be fun to make together. The only modestly time-consuming step is the mindless task of debearding the mussels. And that time will be cut in half if you do it together. The rest of the prep and cooking is straightforward. Steaming is a great choice for date night because you can put a lid on the pan and forget about it while you enjoy each other for a few minutes.
Of course, this recipe is also aphrodisiac-rich, making it an excellent choice if the goal of your evening is a little seduction. Mussels, like all shellfish, are historically considered aphrodisiacs – and for good reason. Mussels provide several nutrients to support sexual health. Then there’s the kiss of spice the sriracha brings to the dish. It can make the tongue tingle and help raise your body temperature. In addition, garlic, lemon and rice wine are also classified as aphrodisiac foods.
Spicy Steamed Mussels in Exotic Broth
- Rinse the mussels well in cold water, discarding any that won’t close when handled. If the mussels have not been de-bearded, remove the fibrous patch of hairs, or “beard,” sticking out from between the two shells by pulling with your fingers. If it's stubborn, cut it with a knife.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the mirin, chicken broth, 1 tsp sriracha and fish sauce.*
- In a nonstick sauté pan or wok, heat the oil over medium-high heat.
- Sauté the garlic in the oil until edges brown, about 30 seconds.
- Add the liquid mixture. Bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute.
- Add the mussels, reducing heat to medium, cover and cook until all the mussels are open, about 4-5 minutes. (They may open sooner.) Remove from heat. Drizzle with lemon juice and top with scallions and/or cilantro. Or, if you prefer, just eat them naked—the way I like to do it.
- Divide mussels between 2 bowls, discarding any that have not opened. Serve with a crusty baguette to sop up the juice.
A note on the provided nutrition informationThe nutrition information provided has been estimated by an online nutrition calculator and is not a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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