Working Our Mussels

We’re sticking with Maine for just a few more weeks. Can you tell we did a lot of cooking at the cabin? It was fabulous! This particular recipe is probably the one we’ll remember the most and not because it was our favorite meal, although it was quite delicious, but because it was a truly memorable experience.

It didn’t take us long, especially with our little explorers, to realize that there were tons of mussels on our little stretch of beach. The bay was situated in an intertidal zone and the mussels were especially easy to find at low tide. 

Mike and I instantly started thinking about how we could cook some of these babies up, but we weren’t sure if they were safe or if we were allowed; and after having food poisoning from mussels on our honeymoon I wasn’t about to mess around with safety. So Mike asked the fisherman that sold us our clams if we could harvest some mussels. He explained the quantity and size regulations and gave us the number of the Maine Department of Marine Resources which would give us real-time pollution levels for our area. We were really getting excited now, so after a quick call and an all clear, we were ready for the mud. That’s when the fun began.

Miss A and I let the boys do the dirty work, and dirty it was! Mike and Mr. N really got their feet and hands grimy out in the soppy, muddy sand digging for mussels. Mike even broke his flip-flop when it was suctioned off his foot into the mud.

Miss A and I stuck closer to shore where we found a few lonely mussels and prepared to give them all a quick wash down. This mud was not coming in the cabin because while I’m happy to cook on vacation, I’m not cleaning!

We dug a hole in the sand that created a little well and we got most of the mud off right on the beach.

After collecting and cleaning about 50 mussels we took them back up to the cabin. Everyone was hosed off outside and we brought the mussels in for a good scrubbing to remove the rest of the mud and barnacles. Much to our surprise the barnacles came off rather easily. We also de-bearded the mussels which wasn’t nearly as creepy as purging the clams.

Once the mussels were cleaned we were ready to cook (and eat!). We’ve made mussels at home before, granted they weren’t live, and we’ve always enjoyed them in wine-based sauces. So when we saw the recipe in our favorite cabin cookbook, Lobster Rolls and Blueberry Pie, we couldn’t resist. We began the Mussels in White Wine Cream Sauce by first adding the white wine and shallots to a stock pot.

We sautéed the wine for a few minutes and then added some chicken stock which we brought to a boil. We tossed in the mussels, covered them and cooked them for 4 minutes over medium-high heat. After checking to make sure the mussels had opened, we removed them with a slotted spoon and set them aside.

We then returned to the pot to create the sauce by adding cream, Dijon, pepper and chives to the stock.

We let the sauce thicken and reduce for a about 4 minutes and poured it over the mussels to serve.

We enjoyed our mussels alongside our steamers and cheddar biscuits for a wonderful late afternoon lunch.

This whole experience, from beginning to end, was a family adventure that we’ll always remember. We were all kids on the beach that day – digging in the mud and the sand, getting dirty and filling up our buckets with shells. The day was only made sweeter by the fact that the mussels earned 4 spoons all around. They were perfectly cooked and the sauce was an incredible complement to the mussels. Both Mr. N and Miss A have, much to our surprise, always been fans of mussels and these were no different. There wasn’t a single shell left unturned.

And as an added bonus – no one got sick! Many thanks to the Maine DMR. :)

Print this recipe: Mussels in a White Wine Cream Sauce

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57 comments on “Working Our Mussels

  1. […] lentil burgers, Bermuda French toast, peach ricotta pancakes, cous cous with cumin, baklawa, mussels in white wine cream sauce, pork, apple and wild rice hot dish, grandma’s cobbler, Maine blueberry pie, rosemary peach […]

  2. rsmacaalay says:

    I love mussels specially in white wine and butter sauce but I havent tried those black ones yet what we have here in NZ are the green ones? do they taste better?

    • Kristy says:

      I think they actually taste very similar. I know I’ve had NZ mussels before, and I don’t remember them tasting too different. (But that could be my bad memory!) :)

  3. YUM! Mussels are one of my favorite types of seafood… and nothing is better than fresh “picked!”

  4. ChgoJohn says:

    When I was about your son’s age, my family visited the East Coast and an Uncle took us out “clamming” one morning. We weren’t nearly as successful as you guys were but it’s an adventure that I remember to this day. You’ve given your children — and yourselves — a great memory. The fact that it came with a great meal is icing on the cake.

  5. weirdcombos says:

    I grew up in the country side in Brazil. My mom was adventurous but never with seafood. We only had access to salt cod and occasionally fresh sardines. Then we moved close to the shore and a new world of flavors opened up to us and we never looked back! It’s amazing that you guys are foraging and exposing your kids to this kind of food. Cheers!

    • Kristy says:

      Thanks! We had a lot of fun looking for mussels. Definitely one of our favorite food experiences to-date. The kids are wonderfully adventurous, much more so than I ever was as a kid. Thanks for visiting! :)

  6. Karen says:

    What a food adventure…one that will always be remembered.

  7. I love this story. What an amazing time you all had in Maine and these mussels look delicious with that lovely sauce!

  8. Mary says:

    So great that you little ones loved the mussels – such fun and delicious too – good for you!!
    Mary x

    • Kristy says:

      The kids just amaze me. I remember the first time they both tried mussels. I was first shocked that they were willing to try them. Then I was shocked that they liked them. I would NEVER have touched one of these as a kid. :)

  9. First of all sorry for missing a few of your posts…back to school and life was a little crazy
    second…I love the new header! it is really beautiful
    and I am loving all the foos adventures you had on your vacation…really the way to make great memories

    • Kristy says:

      No need to apologize! I can completely relate. :) The new header is courtesy of a friend/designer I work with – she’s great. I just sent her some pics and I knew she could come up with something perfect for us. :)

  10. TasteFood says:

    What a wonderful family experience! I love steamed mussels.

  11. Oh these Mussels look absolutely delicious. I’ve also heard of people preparing them with bacon believe it or not. And I love the family photos of everyone looking for Mussels. I just love this blog

  12. Caroline says:

    Sounds like such a blast! I definitely would have let my dad and brothers do the dirty work too. :) I’m so impressed with Mike and Mr. N’s mussel-finding skills, and with this entire process!

    • Kristy says:

      Thanks Caroline. Yeah – I don’t mind getting dirty – but this soppy, gooey mud was a bit more than Miss A and I could handle. Talk about a mud bath!

  13. Eva Taylor says:

    I love mussels. A gorgeous crusty bread, delicious broth, wow, my mouth is watering.

  14. What a beautiful post. I love how the kids got involved throughout the whole process. You are a special and wonderful mom for creating and documenting precious moments. I have never had mussels nor have my kids, looks like this recipe is very easy to make and I’ll have to make this for a special dinner occasion. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • Kristy says:

      The mussels are fabulous and great in both a white wine cream sauce or a red sauce. We even love them in pasta or risotto. So good! Definitely something to try. Hope you and the kids are all doing well and that the start of the school year went well for you all!

  15. This was such a great vacation. Mussels, clams, oh man. These babies look beautiful.

  16. Oh the pictures are so sweet. you have the cutest little family and I love that ya;ll get to do so many of these things together-especially cook. I can’t wait for that time with my kids when they are older and considering one isn’t even born yet I have a while to wait:) The mussels look divine!

    • Kristy says:

      You’re going to have a blast as the kids get older. There’s so much fun that can be had around food and cooking. Not to mention it helps the kids to learn to try new things and learn about so many different cultures. Speaking of the little bundle…how is everything going? Feeling well? You’re gettting there!!!!

  17. spicegirlfla says:

    You’re abosolutely right Kristy, this is more than just a recipe as it is a family experience not to be forgotten! I know my kids would still be talking about all that mud and exploring every time they see a mussel for the rest of their lives! The sauce for these mussels looks absolutely delicious!!

    • Kristy says:

      I sure hope they remember these trips. It’s questionable with Miss A since she’s still only 3. I have a few memories from when I was that age, but not very many. Mr. N on the other hand, I have some hope that he’ll remember. :) If nothing else, we will.

  18. Kelly says:

    Wow, I am completely impressed by your family’s sense of adventure. So hands on :) I will confess that I am not quite as adventurous… My husband and sons had a hoot deep ocean fishing the other night here in Maine but I just couldn’t bring myself to go along (thought it might be too much information). I do enjoy mussels though, and love your wine, dijon sauce – yum – you guys rock!! Big hug from sunny Maine – :)

  19. What fantastic fun family time you guys had on your vacation! Your mussels looks scrumptious.
    I love your new banner picture!
    Have a happy weekend. :-) mandy

    • Kristy says:

      Thanks Mandy! We did have such a great time. You know I still haven’t adjusted the time on my watch from vacation. Now I just have to remember that it’s an hour ahead – but it makes me think of vacation every time I look at it. :)

  20. Charles says:

    Awesome – I can’t believe you collected those bad-boys yourself too! I’d totally be freaking out by all the mud though, lol. I’d be right with you and Miss A, standing far out of the mud :D I think wine-based sauces for mussels are the best too, and so simple… bit of wine, cream, onion etc… mm, makes me want to go pay a visit to the Mussels restaurant down the road :D I’m curious… do the mussels just lurk around in the mud? Don’t they *do* something?

    • ChefDad says:

      They stick to the rocks with these little strings that poke out through the shell and end in these tiny sticky “feet” so you have to kind of tug them off. It’s not hard to pull them off, but you do have to tug just a little. Other than that, no, they don’t do anything.

      • Charles says:

        I’m not sure whether to be jealous of their evidently very “chillaxed” lifestyle or not. Sitting in a mud-slick for half a day? Yeah, maybe not so jealous actually :D

        • Kristy says:

          So the word “chillaxed” got stuck in my head after reading this post and I actually used it when talking to Miss A. You should have heard Mike laughing at me. LOL. :)

    • A_Boleyn says:

      Charles, normally, the mussels hang out attached to their rocks by the beards, covered by several feet of water and feeding by filtering things out of the water when the tide is in, however when the tide is out, they remain buried in the mud just waiting for the water to come back. That’s all they ‘do’. :)

      • Charles says:

        You know it’s one of these things which I find very curious. Like, how are they born, how do they “grow”, can they move, how do they move… things like this. Ok, I think I just booked myself with the mussels page over at Wikipedia :D

        • Kristy says:

          LOL! You and Mr. N would get along fabulously! His curiosity is insatiable. Case-in-point, he bought a book on mushrooms while we were on vacation because he wanted to know all about which ones were poisonous, which ones could be eaten, how many varieties there are, etc. Love that little guy! I hope his curiosity stays with him.

    • Kristy says:

      LOL! The mud was definitely not for us. It was so thick and soupy. Mr. N just love it though! I think he could have stayed in it all day long. ;)

  21. Deborah says:

    Talk about fresh!! I bet those tasted absolutely amazing!

  22. I loved this post!! It brought back so many memories for me. I grew up on the Central Coast of CA. As a kid, I would wade through the mud on the coastline searching for shells and shellfish and crabs… it was the best! Your kids will never forget these moments. What a gift.

  23. Dawn says:

    I am so impressed that your kids liked the mussels!!!!

  24. A_Boleyn says:

    Lovely lovely mussels. I love them in the tomato version and the white wine versions usually served over linguine. You were so lucky to have such a fun family experience as well as a tasty meal that you made from ingredients that you gathered yourself. It obviously made it all the sweeter. :)

    I recently had some New Zealand green lipped mussels at a chinese buffet place but other than that and some at a mongolian grill place, the only other option is the frozen precooked mussels in garlic butter sauce at the grocery store.

    • Kristy says:

      Gathering them and making them ourselves definitely made this meal all the better. And we too love them in the tomato-based sauces over pasta…and in risotto. Yum!

  25. sallybr says:

    Absolutely lovely!

    Can you imagine the memories your kids will have pretty much forever of these adventures by the sea? Getting the mussels, cleaning them, cooking and enjoying them? Too wonderful for words!

    You are an amazing family!

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