It’s hard to think of an easier way to prepare mussels than this one. The mussels are steamed in white wine, shelled and then dressed with a lightly seasoned variation on the classic Italian oil and vinegar salad dressing. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes, if you like a little ‘kick’. Let them sit a while to absorb the flavors and serve. Mussels salad can be served as a great antipasto or a part of a buffet spread.
Serves 4-6 as a light antipasto
- One 1 kilo (2 lb) bag of mussels (cleaned and trimmed, see Notes)
- White wine
For the dressing:
- Olive oil
- White wine vinegar (or freshly squeezed lemon juice)
- A few sprigs of parsley, finely chopped
- 1-2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
- Salt and pepper
- A pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
Put the mussels into a large pot with a splash of white wine over moderately high heat. Cover and let the mussels steam for a few minutes, just until they have all opened, then quickly scoop them out of the pot and set aside to cool. Shell the mussels and place the meat in a mixing bowl
Add a good pour of oil and a drizzle of vinegar (or lemon juice) and mix. Then add the rest of the dressing ingredients and mix again. Let the mussels marinate for an hour or more, mixing from time to time, before serving. Top with a bit of extra parsley for color if you like.
Mussels these days are more often than not farmed and can be used as is, just lightly rinsed. If you are working with wild mussels—much tastier than the farmed kind, but a bit more trouble—you will need to trim off their ‘beards’ with a pairing knife and thoroughly rinse them of any exterior grit. (The ‘beard’ is the collection of little filaments called the ‘byssus’ that emerge from the between the shells they mussels use to attach themselves to the rocks they live on. It is edible but does not make for pleasant eating.)
I’ve intentionally left the measurements for the oil and vinegar out of the recipe; just follow the usual method for dressing salads Italian-style, with lots of oil to coat the mussels generously, and just enough vinegar to add a little zip. There’s nothing much more to note about this simplest of dishes. You do need fresh mussels, though. The simplicity means that canned or jarred mussels won’t cut it. The dish can and should be made ahead, but beware letting it stand longer than say overnight, or their flavor will get too strong.