Maine Blueshell Mussels with Tart Apples, Salty Pancetta, and Herbaceous Tarragon Served with a Hard Cider Broth Click To Tweet
I want to start off with a word of encouragement. I have met so many people who love mussels but have a fear of preparing them. YOU CAN DO IT! Once you have mastered this 15-minute dish you will always have an impressive meal for those pop in guests. The variations are endless and anything you can dunk with bread and serve with a double dark Belgium beer is aces in my book!
Mussels are best prepared the day you bring them home but I have stored mine in the fridge for 1 day without any noticeable decline in freshness. Don’t store them in a plastic bag or you will smother and kill them. Place them in a bowl and cover with a damp dishtowel. Mussels can be slightly opened but if you tap the top of the mussel and it closes you are good to go. If the mussel remains open its time to toss the open one. They will have a beard attached that you need to remove because no one wants to eat that! This is a great task to give your kitchen helpers and my kids giggle constantly while repeating “Time for a haircut mussel” J The last tip I want to give you is that after you cook your mussels if any remain closed you need to toss the closed ones as well. Oh, and these stunning Blueshells made the perfect show and tell for my daughter who happily displayed one on her desk all day at school with great admiration from her friends.
Now, my thoughts behind my inspiration for this dish. Maine Blueshell mussels, what a beautiful ingredient and complete star on their own. When I was thinking of a dish to make with the mussels, apples, and hard cider my very first thought was “How can I do these perfect mussels justice by highlighting the briny plumpness they deliver without masking the subtle ocean flavor?” The tart apples cooked in the pancetta fat add a layer of earthiness when combined with the shallot. Reserving some of the uncooked tart apples for the finish added the perfect amount of freshness without increasing my shopping list. Pancetta when crisped adds a great textural element and perfect saltiness that works well with the sweetness of the mussels. Herbs can be what separates a good dish from a great one and the anise of tarragon is a perfect complement to almost all seafood. My dish is an appetizer portion but you can easily adapt it for main dish size and just double the ingredients. Now go, try this recipe and never look back!
- 2 pounds mussels scrubbed and bearded (discard those that don't close when tapped)
- 4 ounces pancetta diced
- 1 medium shallot thinly sliced
- 2 medium tart green apples peeled and diced; divided
- 2 teaspoons fresh tarragon roughly chopped
- 3/4 cup hard cider
- 1/2 cup unsalted chicken stock
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
Rinse and scrub mussels being sure to remove and discard the beards. Discard any mussels that are open and don't shut when lightly tapped.
In large saucepan cook pancetta over medium heat until crisp. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add sliced shallot and all but 1/4 cup of diced apples to pan. Sauté for 2 minutes or until shallot is softened. Add cleaned mussels to the pan and toss ingredients to combine. Stir in tarragon, hard cider, and chicken stock. Cover pan and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and discard any mussels that have not opened. Add pancetta and reserved 1/4 cup of apples to pan; toss to combine. Serve immediately with toasted bread.