Chef secret to plump steamed mussels

Mussels made at The International Culinary Center

(CBS News) Don't you love it when mistakes work out in your favor?

Like recently, when my classmate and I attempted to make a nice crumble for a peach cobbler. When we tested a batch out in the oven, it didn't come out as "crumbly" as we would have liked. Instead, it all melted together, forming a sweet goopy lump...kind of like a sloppy cookie.

So, we ran with it. We added a few egg yolks to give it more of a cookie-like consistency and made ice cream sandwiches for our buffet.

Video: Learn the secret to perfect steamed mussels

And it was a big hit. Go figure. Greatest mistake ever.

It reminds me of a famous mistake we learned about in my level one class. Our instructor told us about a chef who once accidentally tossed a little flour in a big bowl of mussels that were soaking in water. Whoops!

Luckily, those mussels ate the flour and got nice and fat.

This little secret is something that I have passed on several since I've learned it. It's a foolproof way to make sure your mussels come out plump and juicy every time.

Watch the video above to learn how to prep and steam mussels to perfection.

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Steamed Mussels
Adapted from The International Culinary Center
Yield: 4 servings

  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1/2 lb mussels, cleaned and beards removed
  • 2 teaspoons shallots, diced
  • 1 sprig parsley
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon white wine

1. Heat pan. Add mussels, white wine, parsley, shallots and butter. Cover to steam open the mussels. Shake the pan periodically and check after 2 minutes to see if the mussels have opened.

2. Remove the mussels, strain the liquid. Reserve for sauce. Discard any mussels that failed to open, then shell and reserve the rest in some strained mussel liquid.

Fillet of Barramundi, American Style (Filet De Barramundi Americaine)
Adapted from The International Culinary Center
Yield: 4 servings

Filet De Barramundi Americaine made in class at The International Culinary Center

Lobster stock:

  • 1 1/2 lb lobsters
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 4 shrimp shells (Reserved from shrimp garnish, below)
  • 1 medium carrot, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons brandy
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • Water, to cover
  • 1 cup canned tomatoes (whole or diced)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 sprig tarragon

1. Rinse and clean lobster bodies. Remove meat and reserve for later use. Chop coarsely. (Note: If you can't find lobster, use a ton of shrimp shells)

2. Heat a wide pot, and add oil. Add the lobster bodies and shrimp shells. Cook until the shells turn orange and develop a rich aroma.

3. Add the carrots and onions and saute for 3 to 5 minutes. Add the brandy, and then add the white wine and reduce by half

4. Add the water to cover, tomato product, garlic and tarragon. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and allow to gently cook for 40 minutes, skimming frequently.

5. Strain the stock and return to heat. Continue reducing the mixture until it is thick and fully flavored.


  • 1 recipe steamed mussels (above)

Sauce and finish:

  • 4 fillets barramundi (or any white fish you like)
  • 4 shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • Lobster stock, as needed
  • Reserved mussels and liquid
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Tarragon, as needed, chopped
  • Parsley, as needed, chopped
  • Chervil, as needed, chopped

1. Brush a large saute pan with butter and sprinkle in the shallots.

2. Season the fish fillets and place in the pan on top of the shallots.

3. Add enough lobster stock and mussel liquid to reach halfway up the sides of the fillets. Cover with a lid and bring to a simmer on the stovetop. Cook gently for 2 to 3 minutes, and then add the shrimp to the pan. Continue cooking until the fish and the shrimp are done. Remove, set aside and keep warm.

4. Reduce the poaching liquid until thick, then add the cream and continue to cook until the flavors blend and desired consistency is achieved (until it coats the back of a spoon). Finish with lemon juice, herbs, salt and pepper.

5. Reheat fish, shrimp and mussels in the sauce.

6. Put 1 fish fillet in the middle of a plate, top with 1 shrimp. Surround with three mussels and drizzle sauce over and around dish.