Northwest cuisine is full of iconic flavors, and mussels are an integral part of the profile. I’m pretty equal opportunity when it comes to my love for these delicious bivalves, but I have a special soft spot for Puget Sound–grown Mediterranean mussels. This sweet plump variety is characterized by shiny black shells and easily removable beards. The mussels are super-quick to cook for an easy appetizer or dinner on the fly. Their season peaks in late summer to early fall—around the same time as tomatoes, says Jon Rowley, seafood guru to Taylor Shellfish.
Now, we know mussels are d’lish steamed in white wine, garlic and butter, but Mediterraneans in particular are extremely versatile. Showcase their big, bold flavor with a dish of Pale Ale Oven-Roasted Mussels. Toss them into a big cast-iron skillet with some local beer, garlic and rosemary, then pop the whole shebang in a very hot oven—instant one-bite apps with their own built-in spoons! Don’t forget some bread to soak up that tasty broth!
“Meds” are at their best right now. If you happen to be in Seattle, pick up some of these yummy Northwest favorites at Taylor Shellfish’s new store on Capitol Hill. Or plan a day trip and head out to beautiful Chuckanut Drive to their farm where they have a store on site and learn all there is to know about raising/harvesting mussels and other local treats straight from the Pacific.
Cook up some of these delicious mussels before their season is over! – Kathy
Pale Ale Oven-Roasted Mussels
Makes 4 servings as a shared appetizer, or 2 as a light entrée
2 pounds Mediterranean mussels, rinsed and debearded
1 Tbsp minced fresh garlic
1/8 to 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, or to taste
2 ripe plum tomatoes, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 tsp minced fresh rosemary
1/2 lemon, cut into 4 pieces
1/3 cup NW beer, such as a pale ale
2 Tbsp butter, cut into small chunks, or olive oil
1 large rosemary sprig (optional)
Preheat an oven to 500°F. Toss the mussels, garlic, pepper flakes, tomatoes, and minced rosemary in a large bowl. Transfer to a large cast-iron or other heavy skillet with an ovenproof handle. Squeeze the lemon pieces over the mussels, then drop the pieces into the pan. Pour the beer over the mussels and scatter with the butter. Place the rosemary sprig in the center.
Roast for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the mussels are all open. Remove from the oven, and stir gently with a large spoon. Discard any mussels that do not open. Serve in the skillet, set on a hot pad or trivet—being sure to wrap the skillet handle with a cloth napkin or pot holder.
Recipe adapted from Kathy Casey’s Northwest Table, Chronicle Books, San Francisco