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Do you ever cook shellfish at home?

photo-58One morning of the weekend before last I braved the human maelstrom of Your DeKalb Farmers Market to stock up on Thanksgiving food and noticed some beautiful shellfish in the display case. The Prince Edward Island mussels were not only small, uniform and tightly closed, they were beardless. These mussels had been cultured without the hairy filaments — known as the “beard” — they use to cling to rocks. So they required no cleaning. Right next to them were some equally gorgeous littleneck clams.

Suddenly, I saw lunch.

I picked up two pounds of each, washed them well in a colander, and steamed open with white wine, butter, shallots and garlic with a small pinch of red pepper flake. My wife, kids and I feasted for only about $15. Unfortunately, I forgot to pick up some crusty bread, so we had to make do with toasted whole wheat sandwich bread to sop up the juices. There are worse fates.

If you haven’t tried cooking shellfish at home, it couldn’t be easier. Unlike finfish, it doesn’t leave a strong smell. One note: if you like ordering mussels in restaurants for their buttery broth, you may be disappointed with the thin broth this recipe makes. It’s an easy fix: Pour off some of the broth and reduce it in a pan with a huge gob of butter. Don’t ask about the calories, because I don’t want to know.

Easy Shellfish at Home

  • 2 pounds mussels, littleneck clams or a mixture
  • 2 tablespoons chopped shallot
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup white wine or white vermouth

Rinse the shellfish well in a colander and throw away any with open shells. Saute the shallots and garlic in the butter until fragrant but not colored. Add the wine and the shellfish, cover, and steam over a high flame for 5-8 minutes, shaking the pot occasionally. Check to see that most of the shellfish have opened and turn off heat. Keep covered while you prepare your serving dishes. If desired, drain off one cup of the shellfish liquor and reduce in a small saucepan by half, adding soft butter to enrich. Use this to douse your shellfish at the table.

Serve immediately with crusty bread and, if you’re in the mood, a sprinkle of chopped parsley.

9 comments Add your comment

Thomas S.

November 29th, 2010
11:48 am

I picked up 4 lobsters at Super H yesterday and steamed them – it really couldn’t be easier. $35 for a 4-person lobster dinner, prices are exceptionally low right now.

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November 29th, 2010
2:55 pm

Always include mussels and clams in the cippino made on Christmas Eve for the family.


November 29th, 2010
3:01 pm

I buy my Gulf or Atlantic shrimp and wild scallops from Dekalb Farmers Market and cook them in a skillet with olive oil and lime juice. They go great with pasta and sauce!


November 29th, 2010
3:04 pm

Mussels are easy, but make sure to soak them in water for 15 minutes so that they expel sand…


November 29th, 2010
3:45 pm

I always buy clams at YDFM but only if Tranh is manning the counter — he meticulously goes over each one (without my asking) to make sure they are alive and well.
Some garlic, wine and basil and that’s it.
Alon’s baguette on the side.


November 29th, 2010
4:24 pm

shrimp from publix (already deveined) makes a delish shrimp scampi served over pasta. i’ve grilled sea scallops and served them also with a lemon white wine butter sauce over pasta. shrimp marinated over night in olive oil and jerk seasonings on the grill or in the oven makes a lovely jerk shrimp as an appy or a meal with rice or veggies or salad. sometimes i skewer them for a nicer presentation. easy and delicious!


November 30th, 2010
3:00 pm

I haven’t ever cooked fresh mussels, BUT my two love them..I usually buy the frozen packages at Kroger..They are only 8, so I’ll have to buy some fresh and cook them..I cook shrimp and fish a lot at home and once in a while crab legs..So far, my two LOVE pretty much any type of seafood that they have tried..The girl loves scallops, but the boy not so much..Don’t think, they have ever had clams..Other than frying them, how else would I cook them?


December 2nd, 2010
9:56 am

I’ve been steaming mussels for my grandchildren ever since they were 4 and 2-years old. They love to scoop up the wine/butter/garlic sauce with their shells.