Bar Bites: Beer-Steamed Mussels with Bacon

Photograph: Marvin Gapultos

Aside from mussels, there are few other seafoods that so easily lend themselves to quick cooking, and even faster eating. After all, to manipulate a mound of mussels into a meal, a simple steam in broth or other flavorful liquid is all that is needed to pop the bivalves open. And once opened, the tender, briny mussel meat can be plucked and slurped from its shell in a single breath. That's fast.

But fast doesn't have to be bland. In fact, I find the Belgian method of steaming mussels with a white ale (or any beer really) to provide the utmost flavor—especially when the whole mess is embellished with crunchy bacon.

To start, I cook some chopped bacon in a large skillet until the bacon is crisp and the fat has been rendered into the pan. Some minced shallots and garlic are then sauteed in the bacon fat, and the pan is deglazed with the aforementioned beer. The mussels are then added to the pan, a lid is clamped on, and the mollusks steam in the beer and are ready to eat in under 10 minutes.

And while a Belgian-style ale can provide acidic citrus notes to the final dish, the sauce also benefits from a teaspoon or two of Dijon mustard to complement the mussels, and to also act as a foil to the bacon and bacon fat. Served with beer and crusty bread, these mussels are a great appetizer for four people, or a meal for two.