Friday, July 29, 2016

Mussels with Cider and Cream

I was going to be industrious and bake something using summer’s bountiful fruits and vegetables—but have I mentioned our local heat wave? Day 6 and counting. Or is it Day 7? So I started thinking about cooler recipes, ones that don’t involve any heating up an oven or standing over a fire.

And then I remembered the mussels in my freezer.

Back in 1999, my daughter and I traveled to Ireland alone (my husband was in South Korea at the time), landing at Shannon and driving south along the coast toward Leap, where we’d be staying. Along the way we stopped in Bantry for lunch. There’s a nice harbor there, and looking out across the water I asked, “what’re those things?” As it turned out, those were mussel beds.

I filed that thought away, and it was a few years later I was in my local market and saw they had packages of frozen mussels, ready to heat and serve. I read the fine print, and found they came from Bantry, which is in West Cork. [Note: while the company that packages these flourishes, they’re getting their mussels from China these days. But they still taste good.]

When I was growing up, and visiting Long Beach Island in New Jersey in the summer, mussels were those annoying things you cut your toes on. Now people see them in markets and say, “what the heck do I do with those?” Or “Where’s the food in them? They’re all shell!” I’ll admit they’re kind of labor-intensive for the amount of mussel you get out, but they do taste good.

And you can buy them shelled! Perfect for a very quick summer meal. Here’s one I adapted from a more traditional Irish recipe, modified for ready-to-eat mussels.

Mussels in Cider


1 package frozen mussels (the 8-ounce package served two of us; the brother was enough for a larger package)
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed or minced
2 oz finely-diced pancetta
2 Tblsp butter
1 cup hard cider
1/4 cup heavy cream
Small handful of chopped parsley
Salt and pepper


In a medium-size saucepan, brown the pancetta pieces over medium heat until they are golden and sizzling. Add the butter, then the shallot and garlic. Cook for about 3 minutes, until the shallot is soft.

Add the cider and let bubble for a few minutes (what little alcohol there is will evaporate). Add the mussels and let them steam for a few minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the cream and parsley, season with salt and black pepper. And there you have it!

Serve with some nice artisan bread to sop up the liquid.

Bakes locally in Plymouth

If you've never tried mussels, this is a simple way to start! Using mussels in the shell looks more impressive, but they're kind of messy.

Here's a version I had in Dublin. The green stuff
is samphire, which grows on rocks along the
shore. It tastes kind of like asparagus.

Soon I'll switch gears to the next Orchard Mystery, which is Seeds of Deception (I'll be writing the next in the series shortly, but it's only a glimmer of an idea at the moment, involving an organic orchard and poison).


  1. This sounds delicious! I love mussels... and love that you can find them in the frozen seafood section, fully cooked and shelled, for $3 or $4! I use them in seafood alfredo or just sauteed with some garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Thanks for sharing your recipe!

  2. Irish mussels from China???> What is this world coming to?

    This does sound easy and tasty. And the bread is beautiful.
    A question:
    What does this mean?
    "1 package frozen mussels (the 8-ounce package served two of us; the brother was enough for a larger package)"

    1. Oops, sorry--broth. I've never had a brother. Nor had my husband. Where did this one come from? Bottom line: plenty of liquid.

    2. Ah, that makes sense--more sauce than you probably need.
      You didn't correct the post, however.

  3. I love mussels! I'm going to have to try this recipe. I do enjoy those with the shell on, I think it makes for a richer broth and I use the shell as a scoop for the broth. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

    1. The ones in the shell are definitely easier to find. Our market's fish seller usually has fresh ones in mesh bags, and I've used those. But the frozen kind are certainly convenient, if not quite as flavorful.

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  5. And make sure to put spoons on the table to spoon up that extra broth!

  6. LOL! I wondered about the brother, too. : ) But why are the Irish are selling Chinese mussels? I don't get it.

    1. I'll have to go ask them! Or look up the corporate history.

  7. Great recipe, Sheila. Thanks so much!