According to Rachel Allen, mussels with bread crumbs were immensely popular in Ireland back in the 1980s. Yet their retro appeal holds true today and her version in Rachel's Irish Family Food is anything but kitschy. Plump, just-steamed mussels get a quick trip under a hot broiler topped with super buttery bread crumbs laced with garlic and parsley. The final result is a briny, succulent bite, colorful and rich.
Why I picked this recipe: Despite many years of steaming mussels in countless bowls of broth, I've never opened them up and broiled them with a topping.
What worked: The buttery, garlicky bread crumbs were a delightful contrast to the creamy mussels.
What didn't: These tasty morsels are super hard to eat without making a mess, so be sure to serve with napkins! If you tend to take little "tastes" of things like buttered bread crumbs while cooking, you'll probably want to go up on the mixture by another 1/2 cup or so. As written, there is just enough of the mixture to top the mussels.
Suggested tweaks: Before topping the mussels, run your knife under the flesh to cut the abductor mussel. That way, the topped and broiled mussels will slide right into your mouth. Allen suggests adding cilantro and red pepper flakes to the bread crumb mixture in addition to the parsley to punch things up a bit.
Reprinted from Rachel's Irish Family Food: 120 classic recipes from my home to yours by Rachel Allen. Copyright 2013. Published by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.
- 2 pounds (900g) mussels in their shells, scrubbed clean
- 4 tablespoons (50g) butter
- 1 cup (50g) fresh white bread crumbs
- 1 large clove garlic, crushed or grated
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Check over the mussels and, if any are open, give them a tap; if they don’t close, discard them. Put the tightly shut mussels with just 1 tablespoon of water in a large saucepan over low heat and cover with the lid. They will open in the steam. If you catch them when they are just opening, they will be delicious and juicy, so don’t overcook them. Remove the mussels from the pan (keeping any juices for a fish soup, pie, stew, or even to mix with mayonnaise served with shellfish such as shrimp). Discard any cooked mussels with unopened shells.
Discard half a shell from each mussel and pull out the beard—the little fibrous tuft— from the straight side of each mussel.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the bread crumbs, garlic, and parsley and mix together. With a spoon, firmly pack the bread crumb mixture on top of each mussel. Place the mussels, crumb side up, in a single layer on ovenproof plates or gratin dishes. (These can be prepared up to 24 hours in advance.) When you are ready to eat, pop them under a preheated broiler (grill) until golden, crunchy, and bubbly, 1 to 2 minutes.
Variations: While it isn’t classically Irish, sometimes I feel like adding a bit more zip to this recipe, so in place of the parsley, I add 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro (coriander) together with one-quarter to one-half of a fresh red chile, seeded and chopped. Or you could try adding some grated lemon zest to the crumbs.