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markk

Mussels

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I love mussels. In two resraurants I go to, lately the mussel meats seem artifically plump, filled with air, with a fluffy, not a chewy, consistency, and the meats are rather large (and airy). They have no body to them, and no real mussel flavor.

Can anybody explain this? One is a restaurant that for years has been delivering exceptionally good mussels, the other a local place where now that I think about it, they've been like this more often than not. I do buy them at the market and make them myself from time to time, and they're not like that at all. Has anybody else experienced this? Can anybody else explain this?


Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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I'm not sure, but as a rule small and medium sized mussels are better.

I know in the uk, for some reason we import loads of the large New Zealand geen lipped mussels, which I find inferior to local ones. Why I don't know, they are even proudly named on menus - suppose they sound more 'exotic'.


I love animals.

They are delicious.

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I think the thing with the green-lipped mussels is 1) they're big, and 2) they contain various whatsits supposed to be very healthy.

Green-lipped mussels are only one of NZ's mussel varieties, and I find it tiresome that I can't easily buy blue mussels when I'm in NZ too. Sorry you are finding reduced choice in the UK too -- must be one of these aggressive alien species!

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I'm thinking perhaps it's seasonal -- that it might be mating time wherever the mussels were from and, like oysters, they have put their energy into being attractive to each other and not to us. :raz:

Or, to be more scientific (sort of): that it's a function of water temperature, and where/how they're grown. Farmed rather than gathered? Bred to be fat and happy because bigger is supposedly better? I don't really know (can't you tell? :wink: ) but it all sounds plausible to me.

FWIW: I bought mussels just last week (from Wild Edibles, in NYC), and they were pretty big and moderately flavorful.

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I used to work as a fishmonger in Texas and part of our HAACP restrictions was that we weren't allowed to sell any mussels that were dead, EXCEPT for the Greenlips. Supposedly they contain less bacteria, so are safer to eat after they die, but I still didn't trust it. Also, New Zealand is pretty sexy right now and the hot place to be, with all the Lord of the Rings hype.

Andrew

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I wonder if it has anything to do with being frozen? I know most of the NZ mussels are sold frozen, with the shell already split. I vastly prefer the live PEI ones.

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No, it's not the New Zealand ones that I'm talking about - I don't eat or order those, largely because they're frozen. I'm talking about the black mussels. Whether they're specifically PEI (which are the ones I buy at home) I can't say, because I don't know if restaurants spring for those. But they're the regular black mussels, and the principal restaurant in question was the Belgian place "Petite Abeille" on 14th street, where for years and years the mussels have been spectacular. On my last visit the mussel meats were gigantic, but puffed-up, airy, fluffy, not particularly flavorful and not particularly tasting or chewing like a mussel. Some of the places in Jersey where I've had mussels lately have had them the same way. I'm wondering if maybe that's a feature of the season, or some other thing that I'm not aware of. But I sort of remember mussels as having texture and flavor, not like these.


Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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I always thought the fluffy consistancy was when mussels were overcooked, but I don't eat them enough to be sure.

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I always thought the fluffy consistancy was when mussels were overcooked, but I don't eat them enough to be sure.

Definitely not. In fact, overcooked mussels are quite the opposite - chewier than Big Red.

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Maybe try finding out where the offending mussels come from? They do taste different when raised in different locations. Here in Seattle, there is only one "brand" of mussels (Penn Cove) I will buy because I find them so much better than mussels grown elsewhere.

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I always assumed the texture indicated how long they were cooked. The big, soft, "fluffy" ones being undercooked; the shrunken tough ones being overcooked. Now I'm wondering if it's something else. Do you think they might brine them to plump them up?

Christine

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Sounds like they have been steamed, and are slightly undercooked

but I could be wrong..............

:blink:


I Will Be..................

"The Next Food Network Star!"

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I have a couple of friends that run a mussel farm here in Casco Bay, Maine. They use forty foot ropes that they wrap baby mussels (spat) in a biodegradable netting around. After nine or so months, they haul them out, wrestle the full grown mussels off the rope, then run them through a "cleaner" that takes the barnacles and beards off. They pack them in net bags with a dated ID tag, and off they go to New York and beyond.

They have slowly gained new markets and shipping knowledge, because w/out beards, the shelf life is shorter. They sell lots before even stepping foot on the raft. I worked on the raft one day and took home fourteen pounds as a gift. I steamed them for supper in onion/bayleaf/WWine and they came out big and fluffy. Amazing flavour.

My guess is that you are getting some really fresh, aquaculture mussels.

The next day I cooked the rest in batches and packed them in a tapas style affair: EVOO/pimento/can't remember what else, but I had quarts of the stuff.


"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

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A slightly random thought. Could it be in the method of preparation? I find that when I steam them they have a better consistency then when I cook them in sauce or in a sauté pan.


Living hard will take its toll...

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I tend to agree with the undercooking statements -- I get the fluffy mussels when I am too impatient.

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