Monday, 27 June 2011

Grilled Mussels with Garlic Butter and Parmesan


Two years ago I prepared this dish in honour of a visit from our pesco-vegetarian daughter. The short article I posted quickly became the most visited page on this website. I promised myself I'd do it again with two key improvements: Firstly, much better photographs (the earlier ones were taken with my Nokia mobile phone) and secondly, cooked using charcoal.

Grilling (or broiling to use the American term) involves radiant heat from above, or a kind of upside down barbeque. I'd been pondering this for some time and one morning when I was out running in the countryside, the idea came to me. I thought that if I made two charcoal fires in the Weber held to the sides with the adjustable metal fences, and then arranged the coals so they went up the sides of the Weber, I could put the mussels right at the bottom and they would get heat from both sides and from above. I then thought that some foil reflectors might help get some more of that radiant heat to go downwards. As it happened this wasn't necessary as the mussels grilled perfectly well between two walls of charcoal. Afterwards, the same fire was used to bake a whole salmon in the conventional way.

It was another visit from our daughter and some friends from Australia that gave me the perfect excuse to get to the fishmonger and burn some charcoal. Not far off a looking like a perfect day. Rain was forecast, but I remained undeterred. You can of course grill them in the kitchen which takes 4-5 minutes at the most, but think of all that carbon you save by not turning on that power hungry electric grill. Besides, the charcoal then gets used to cook the rest of the meal.

INGREDIENTS (starter for 8)

- 1.5kg fresh live mussels (this got me about 50 good sized ones)
- 3-4 cloves of garlic, finely crushed
- 2-3 tbsp of finely chopped fresh oregano (or parsley)
- 75g butter


The mussels can be prepared in advance, so that the only thing that needs doing is grilling before serving.

First, rinse the mussels and remove any beards, then bring 50ml of water to the boil in a large pot with a lid. Add the mussels and steam them open on a high heat. This should take about five minutes. Allow them to cool enough to be handled and discard any that have not opened.

Find a narrow shallow tray that will fit between the two fires in the bottom of the Weber. Break off the shell that the mussel is not attached to, and using the sharp edge of the spare shell, separate the mussel from the serving shell. Lay the mussels in their shells in the tray.

Make the garlic butter by putting the butter and garlic in a bowl. Soften the butter by putting the bowl in a microwave for 20 seconds or so, just enough to melt the butter. Mix the butter and garlic, add the chopped oregano, and using a teaspoon, pour a bit of the melted garlic butter mix over each mussel.

Again, using a teaspoon, sprinkle about 1/4 teaspoon of the grated parmesan over the top and set them aside until you are ready to grill them.

To grill, prepare two charcoal fires as described above (leaving enough room between them for your tray) and grill the mussels in batches between the hot coals. I put the lid on the Weber because it was raining, but each batch only took a few minutes so check them constantly. Remove the hot tray with tongs, serve the mussels onto a platter and watch everyone dig in. Enjoy!

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