What it is: Mussels are savory mollusks with thin, dark, oval shells. Of about 17 edible species, the most popular culinary varieties are common blue mussels (Mytilus edulis ), Mediterranean (M. galloprovincialis) and Baltic (M. trossellus) and greenshell mussels (Perna canaliculus).
Where it comes from: Mussels grow in coastal waters all around the globe, as well as fresh water, but nearly all commercially harvested mussels are farmed. China is the top producer, followed by Spain. France, the United States and Canada also produce mussels. The greenshell mussel comes from New Zealand.
What to do with it: Buy mussels with shells that are tightly closed or that snap shut when tapped. Mussels should always be cooked live. Store no more than three days in the refrigerator, covered with a damp towel.
Mussels can be cooked a variety of ways. They’re often simply steamed with flavored liquids or simmered in broth. They can also be roasted or broiled. They are extremely versatile when it comes to flavoring. Once cooked, discard any mussels whose shells haven’t opened.
Learn more: Bistro 110 off the Magnificent Mile hosts a beer and mussels fall tasting at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 21, featuring five preparations of mussels from Chef Dominique Tougne paired with five seasonal brews from Goose Island and Dogfish Head. The event is $25. The mussels dishes, including the one below, will also be featured throughout October.
Bistro 110’s mussels with coriander and lemon
Chef Dominique Tougne
2 tablespoons butter
Zest from 1/2 lemon
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon whole coriander seed
1 pound mussels, washed and debearded
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup beer, such as Goose Island Honkers Ale
4 cherry tomatoes, quartered
5 sprigs fresh cilantro, stems removed and discarded
Heat a 1-quart casserole or wide saucepan over medium high heat and add the butter. When the butter is hot and foamy, add the lemon zest, chopped garlic and coriander seeds. Saute for 1 minute, then add the mussels and salt; toss well.
Add the beer and cherry tomatoes. Cover and cook for 3 or 4 minutes or until all the mussels are opened.
Discard any mussels that have not opened and add the fresh cilantro. Toss well and pour in a large pasta bowl. Serve quickly with warm crusty baguette. 1 to 2 servings.