Subtly smoky from a wood-infused fire and lightly spiced, mussels grilled on the half-shell might be spring’s easiest and most appealing appetizer (or, say, Tuesday night dinner). Like oysters, mussels can either be cooked in their shell (steamed and/or heated until they sputter open), or opened raw and fired in a half-shell. The latter is perfectly suited for the grill, and couldn’t be easier to prepare; just add a drizzle of oil and a pinch of seasoning (obviously we’re biased here, and think Fish Monger is the bomb). The prep is easy and fun, you can enlist a few friends or kids to help open the glossy black mussels. The actual cooking process won’t take more than a few minutes, so before you place the mussels on the fire, make sure the table is set, crackly bread and butter, and a cold rosé from the South of France or crisp Pilsner are at the ready.
Coal-Grilled Mussels with Fish Monger
Serves 4 to 6
- 3 pounds small to medium mussels, scrubbed and debearded
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Fish Monger seasoning
Prepare a grill for one-zone cooking and build a medium fire. When the coals are glowing red and covered with a fine gray ash, add a couple of hardwood chunks (or a log adjacent to the fire) and allow the wood to burn halfway down.
Meanwhile, Open the mussels by pulling the two shells apart and twist the empty half shell (being careful to preserve the mussel and it’s juices in the other shell) until it pops off. Discard the empty half shell and place the mussel on a grill rack that you can place directly on the coals (a smaller cross hatch works well so you won’t lose any to the fire). Repeat with the remaining mussels.
Drizzle the mussels with the olive oil (getting a few drops in each shell), season with a generous pinch of Fish Monger, and then carefully place the rack directly on the hot coals. When the mussels contract and the juices begin to sizzle (this shouldn’t take more than a couple minutes), remove them from the heat and place the hot rack in a rimmed baking sheet or on another heat-proof tray. Serve immediately, with a crackly baguette and cold rosé or a crisp lager.
Grill-side banter provided by food writer, cookbook author and grilling enthusiast, Paula Disbrowe.
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