Crispy Baked Mussels on the Half Shell

I have written previously on the merits of mussels. This is a fun party dish that combines the elegance of steaming in white wine with the fun of a crisp canapé. It works best with large mussels because you are cooking them twice, thereby reducing the risk of overcooking. But of course, you don’t always know what you’re getting until you get them home and eat them. C’est la vie.

Feeds 4 – 6 as a light starter

Ingredients

1 cup fresh breadcrumbs

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley

1 clove garlic, minced

Salt and pepper

1 tsp butter

1kg mussels

1/4 cup dry white wine

Method:

Preheat your oven on the broiler/grill setting, and place a rack quite close to the top of the oven.

In a small bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, olive oil, parsley, garlic and a small pinch of salt and pepper. Set aside.

Clean and sort through the mussels, discarding any cracked ones, or any that don’t close after being rinsed with water.

Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add the butter and let it melt, then tumble in the mussels. Turn the heat on to high, then pour in the white wine and clamp on a lid. Cook for 3 – 4 minutes, shaking now and again, until mussels have opened, but don’t overcook.

Click off the top shells of each mussel, placing the mussels on a baking tray. Discard any mussels that haven’t opened. Spoon a little of the cooking liquid in to each of the mussel shells, avoiding any grit in the bottom of the pot.

Make ahead: Mussels can be prepared up to this point up to 30 minutes in advance. Reserve a little extra cooking broth to spoon over before baking if they look like they need it. Position the tray slightly lower down in the oven so the mussels can sufficiently reheat before they get too crisp.

Just before baking, sprinkle over the garlicky breadcrumb mixture, taking care to get to each mussel, but don’t worry if a bit goes over the sides as well. Place the tray on the top rack and cook until the breadcrumbs are crisp and golden. Watch it like a hawk – you’re just crisping the top, and it won’t take long!

Pop the tray straight on the table; you won’t want to be transferring the mussels to a platter one by one after they’ve cooked. Serve with small forks and a couple of bowls for the shells.

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