Friday, October 26, 2012

Foodie Fridays: Mussels, not

Our family's love for mussels more or less started in France, where we discovered that Junior J loved his mussels and could eat a whole load of them. For some strange reason, he'd only eat the female ones, which were orange-pink in colour, leaving the lighter-coloured males for us.

When we were in Bordeaux, mussels were pretty cheap at the market, so we tried our hand at cooking them ourselves (here's one recipe you could try). It was such a hit that we had home-cooked mussels twice, with loads of crispy baguette to soak up the sauce.

Its pretty simple to prepare, since you just need to fry the butter with the veggies and add the mussels in. However, the cleaning bit can be a little tedious, since you have to de-beard all of them and give them a scrubbing before they go in the pot to cook. Even all that cleaning didn't deter the hubby, and he came back last weekend armed with a pack of mussels from the market. We put them in the fridge as usual, and left them for the next day.

Now the thing is, mussels are supposed to be eaten fresh, and must be alive when you cook them. Most sites that we've read recommended the tap test to see if the mussels are living: you just need to knock an open mussel gently on the side of the counter and see if it closes within a few minutes. If the mussel doesn't close, the poor fellow is dead, and you're supposed to chuck them.

I soaked the mussels the next day in cool water, to allow them to filter off all the sand inside. When the hubby got down to cooking them after that, he noticed that most of the mussels were open. So we did the tap test. And they all didn't close. Uhoh.

We couldn't bear to throw that whole pack out, so the hubby decided he'll just cook them anyway, while I went hunting online for reasons why we shouldn't eat dead mussels and what would happen if we did. There was a lot of discussion about how it was a myth that you shouldn't eat mussels that are not open after cooking (apparently it was ok to eat those that are still closed, provided they were still alive prior to cooking, and cooked for an adequate amount of time)... but hardly anything about what happens to you if you ate mussels that didn't close before cooking.

Then I came across this page, which mentioned scary stuff like "paralytic shellfish poisoning". The page didn't seem too scientific, and there were no references cited, and the mussels seemed ok. But I think being parents does make you paranoid, so we opted to chuck the whole lot out just to be safe, and ate a rather mish-mash dinner that we hastily put together. There was no way I was going to add food-poisoning to the list of ailments we were already having!

I guess we should have remembered to open the package to give the mussels air when we placed them in the fridge. One thing that puzzles me, however, was that the mussels were packaged two days before in a plastic container that was sealed with clingflim, and had a expiry date that was a few days away from the day we cooked them. There was no instructions save to keep them below 7 degrees. Wouldn't those fellows have died even before they made it to the market, since the packaging was air-tight? Whatever the case, we're buying fresh, unpackaged mussels from the market from now on.

Now how about you? Have you tried cooking mussels? Would you have chucked out the whole pot of them if you were in our shoes?

Linking up with: 


  1. i is not a mussel fan! BUT poppy and i are now watching Magic Schoolbus - Mussel Bay. maybe junior J might enjoy it too, since he's into them now. mussels, not magic schoolbus :P

  2. We love mussels too! But guess it's better to be safe than sorry when it comes to seafood. My hubby soaks them in salt water to get rid of the sand though. Marseilles has the yummiest mussels we ever tasted! Angel ate when she was only one!

  3. wow! We cook them pretty often but I never knew the colours differentiated sex of mussles. So cool!

    For me, I wont eat them or let kid near them but my hubby's tummy has been well trained by his mum and my dad's equally busy and those other two men in my life will never let me chuck out mussles or clams esp if I use a alcohol broth...

  4. Adora: Hahaha, I used not to like shellfish. Until the hubby came along, he cannot resist anything that comes from the sea with a shell on it (except the snails la). Thanks for the recommendation, might check that out!

    Summer: Ah, salt water, ok! And Angel eating mussels at one, wow, she is one adventurous eater for sure!

  5. Nerdymum: LOL, hubby was so sad especially since it had white wine in it, so I think he's like your hubby!

  6. Thanks for linking up!

    Orange female, paler color male? This is new to me! hehe~

    I would have thrown the whole bag away coz regardless of whether its poisonous or not, dead mussels have a strong pungent when cooked *yucks*

    Cook them the next time n show us the recipe n picture =)

    1. No worries! Haha, yes, we found out after we read up on how to cook them!

      Hmmm, the mussels didn't smell though, but we still wanted to be on the safe side! Actually the photo above was the mussels we cooked, in France! :)

  7. I love mussels! I do make them quite often at home, or at least whenever the mussels go on sale. Honestly I'm not too sure if the ones in the supermarket are really that alive, considering they are in a sealed package? Though they do sit in seawater so maybe that helps. It does taste really good though! Before cooking I soak the mussels in cold salt water and sprinkle a bit of cornmeal or flour over them. Apparently it helps to get rid of grit.

    My kids don't eat mussels, though they love playing with the shells hen we're done!

    1. Ah, soaking in salt water with flour! Thanks for the tip!

      So strange that they seal the packages, since we were told you need to keep the packet open to allow for air! J loves playing with the shells too!

  8. I never knew abt the colours and genders too! Cool. I think I could have eaten a few (quarter of the pot?) cos throwing away the whole lot just seems so sayang...

    1. Ya I know! But we were rather paranoid, especially about giving them to Junior J... oh well, guess we'll be careful to buy the fresh ones next time!



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