The fishmonger at Lund’s grocery store in Minneapolis did not want to sell these mussels to my mom. She tried to buy them a week earlier and arrived up north at the cabin only to report that the guy wouldn’t sell them to her if she wasn’t going to cook them that same day.
WTF? I mean, ideally, yes, you eat any shellfish two seconds after you take it from the sea, but you don’t have to. Bivalves, in particular, tend to close themselves up and can hang out for a bit before things get ugly. Plus, you can tell when mussels aren’t good anymore – either they are open and won’t close before you cook them or they won’t open when you do cook them. Either way, things are clear.
I asked Mom to go back, to not involve him in the schedule, to slyly ask how often they got fresh mussels into the store and when the mussels she was buying had arrived, and to please bring me some mussels (my love of mussels is long-standing and pure) – I would worry about whether they were good or not.
It ends up Lund’s gets mussels in everyday. That means the mussels I grilled on Friday night, that my mom bought Thursday afternoon, had most likely been out of the water for less than 48 hours.
My dad lit the grill. I picked over the mussels. We threw them on the hot grill and took them off as they were ready. My dad, my dashing husband, my son, and I proceeded to eat them one after the other as they came off the grill, happily burning our fingers on the hot shells. I insisted on grinding fresh black pepper over them as they cooked, but I’ll admit it was gilding the lily just a bit.
And my mom, who so nicely ran the mussels maze on my behalf? She doesn’t care for shellfish. Even mussels, hot of the grill.
The recipe for grilled mussels is this: put mussels on a hot grill and cook until they open up and are cooked to your liking. “Your liking” can cover anything from those who like their mussels barely cooked – still tenderly raw and soft – to those who prefer to leave them on the grill until they get almost smoked, their meat condensed and the edges almost crisp. Experiment, taste, and see what you like best. How many should you grill? That depends on how many you want to eat. About 1/2 pound per person makes a nice little snack. If they are the main event, however, you’ll want closer to 2 pounds each.