Afternoon Mussels by George (and Jim Henning)


  • We have a place on Camano Island. Its one of many places along Puget Sound with an abundance of Mussels. Some chefs will tell you that when it comes to seafood, mussels are the one item where they prefer the products from seafood farms. I admit that those mussels are plumper and easier to clean then ones you find on rocks around the sound. But there are many places around the sound with very fine mussels and what the wild ones lack in plumpness they make up in the pleasure of eating "your own harvest".

    class="caption">Afternoon Mussels

    The mussels grow on the larger rocks just above the "0" tide line, i.e. a medium low tide so they are available on most days during the low tide period. There is no season for the mussels but you do need a permit. One does need to watch for red tide warnings and stay away from areas that might be polluted.

    Here are some notes that I leave for friends to stay at our cabin:

    I prepared mussels one afternoon according to this recipe and liked the way they turned out.

    Use gloves to pick and clean the mussels. The edges of the shells are very sharp and I often cut my fingers when I pick and clean the mussels. Pick 1.5" or longer mussels. Count on 18 or more per person.

    The Broth

    • Some olive oil or butter
    • 1 onion
    • 2 cloves of garlic
    • 1" chunk of ginger - grate or chop fine
    • Herbs: oregano, thyme, dill, bay, fennel or fennel seeds and/or whatever you like
    • 2 cups or more of white wine and about the same amount of water
    • 1 tsp. of sugar
    • Salt and pepper

    I like to cook the mussels in a shallow pan with a lid that can double as a serving dish.

    Saute the onions and garlic in the olive oil or butter until soft but not brown. Add the wine and water and then the herbs, sugar, salt and pepper. Simmer the broth while you de-beard and scrub the mussels - 15 minutes or longer. (You don't have to remove all of the barnacles or get the mussels to be as clean as they are when you get them at the market)

    Adjust seasoning and bring the broth to a boil, add the mussels and cover. Cook until the mussels open (just a few minutes) and serve immediately. Overcooking the mussels will cause them to toughen.

    Serve in bowls and pour some of the broth into each bowl. Place the remainder in the middle of the table so that everyone can help themselves to more of the mussels or broth.

    Serve with crusty bread and white wine - I like the Amity Pinot Blanc with the mussels. Its a great crisp wine, made by good friends.


    The photo atop your mussel recipe showed something which I have considered my own secret weapon: a clear glass lid. With it you can keep watch as the mussels and clams begin to open. This is a great way to very accurately gauge cooking time--as soon as I see the bivalves opening, I remove them from the heat.

    Keep up the good eating!

    Tom Greggs Greggs Building Design (206) 524 2808


    I agree, for tender mussels the secret is in not overcooking them.