While visiting Belgium, I nearly OD'd on steamed mussels, having picked up quite an addiction to the tasty mollusks. Here is a terrific recipe for steamed mussels, one that is very typical of what you find in France and Belgium. It's quite simple and a quick dish to prepare. The entire cooking time is only about 10 minutes.
There's a saying that you should only eat mussels in months with an 'R' in them (January, February, March, etc.). However, most of the mussels sold in this country are farm-raised and fresh all year 'round.
Also, the single best tool I've ever found for eating steamed mussels is a small, empty mussel shell. This is a trick I learned in Brussels. You just use the empty shell like tweezers to "grab" the mussel and it doesn't shred the meat like a fork might.
Plan on about 1 pound of mussels per person as a main dish, or 1/2 pound each as an appetizer.
4 lbs. black mussels, cleaned, rinsed and beards removed. (Discard any that are open or have broken shells.)
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 minced garlic cloves
1 minced shallot
4-5 thyme sprigs
3-4 tarragon sprigs
1/2 cup chopped parsley
juice from 1 lemon
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 Tbs. Pastis or Pernod (optional)
1/2 tsp. red-pepper flakes
1 tomato, seeded and diced
2 Tbs. unsalted butter
Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large stockpot. Saute the thyme, tarragon, garlic, shallot briefly -- a minute or two -- to create a flavor base.
Add the mussels to the pot, give them a quick toss and then add the chicken broth, lemon juice, wine, Pastis and red-pepper flakes.
Cover the pot and steam the mussels for about 5-6 minutes, until all the mussels open. Shake the pot once or twice with the lid on while cooking to redistribute the mussels.
Add the parsley, tomato and butter to the pot.
Stir and replace the cover. Cook for another minute or two to soften the tomato.
Serve with a green salad or with frites (pictured here), and thick slices of grilled bread to soak up the yummy broth.