Flexing Our Mussels

It’s been cold here in Dallas lately. No really, I mean it! We’ve spend the last week hovering in the mid-forties, blanketed in a cold, misty fog. I feel like I haven’t seen the sun for weeks. There’s something about cold, rainy days, though, that makes me think of Ireland… or rather, makes me crave Irish pub food.  A group of my sorority sisters went to Ireland for our senior spring break; it was one of the most breathtaking experiences of my life. Now cool, misty days (like all this week) remind me of sitting in warm, dark pubs, eating shepherd’s pie and drinking a perfectly poured Guinness.

It was only natural then that I pull out my Irish pub cookbook and cook up one of my favorites, Mussels in Guinness and Garlic. I picked up the cookbook, conveniently called The Irish Pub Cookbook by Margaret Johnson, at an oddities shop around the Ring of Kerry. This is a tradition of mine; I buy a cookbook of the “native cuisine” on every vacation (one of our favorite honeymoon memories is prowling the surprising number of bookshops in Papeete, Tahiti in search of a French Polynesian cookbook… in English).

This meals sounds fancy. It looks fancy. It even tastes fancy. I assure you, it’s not. It’s deceptively easy and actually very inexpensive. The only ingredient Kevin and I didn’t have on hand, the mussels, was only $9 at our local fancypants grocery store. This was more than enough for the two of us for dinner (and lunch the next day besides).

Mussels in Garlic and Guinness (adapted from The Irish Pub Cookbook)

Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes


2 lbs mussels
1 shallot, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/2 c. Guinness (we used Guinness Black Lager because that’s what we had on hand)
1/2 c. half and half
2 Tbsp. butter
Lemon wedges to serve


  1. Give your mussels a shower and shave. The shells may be gritty, so quick rinse under cold water will take care of any sand or shell. You’ll also need to trim their beards (hairy tendrils that may be sticking out of the lip of the shell). A sharp paring knife is all you need.
    NOTE: Whatever you do, do not submerge the mussels! They’re alive (for now… muhahahaha). Place them in a colander while they’re waiting to meet their doom. Some shells may gape (or open). These should close if you tap them (it might take a minute). Any mussels that don’t close have already gone to the great mollusk place in the sky and should be appropriately buried (in the trash).


  2. Prep your shallots, garlic, and parsley. We’ve made this meal using onion instead of shallots before and it turned out great, so if you don’t have shallots on hand, don’t run out for them. Onions will do nicely.
  3. Heat the butter in stockpot over medium heat. When it has melted, add the shallots and garlic and saute for about a minute. Once they have started to soften, add all the remaining ingredients, mussels included. Cover and cook for about seven minutes, stirring the mussels occasionally to get everybody in the juicy goodness. The mussels will open when they are cooked. If any don’t open, discard them.
  4. On their own, the mussels make a great appetizer. We like to serve them over whole wheat spaghetti as a meal. Squeeze a lemon wedge or two over the top and enjoy!

This is one of our all-time favorite meals. I could probably eat the entire two pounds of mussels by myself (in one sitting). They’re that good.

Do you have any vacation traditions or meals that remind you of them?

Please bear with our iPhone pictures for just a little while longer. Kevin and I are back on the camera hunt (our refurbed Canon bit the dust). Any suggestions for a mid-range DLSR? I think we’re leaning towards a Canon T3i.


6 thoughts on “Flexing Our Mussels

  1. Seeing in HD is not my thing (seriously, Forrest hates it when I watch a movie on the bluray because I can’t tell a difference at all), so I think the iPhone photos look great! Sadly, I can’t suggest a camera, we think we might be on the hunt for one in the near future, but we aren’t sure yet. Good luck!

  2. One day, Joe and I are going to go to Ireland and I can’t wait. After seeing London & Edinburgh, I can only imagine how beautiful it is!

    As for camera recommendations, Joe did a post about the cameras we were deciding between. We ended up with the Nikon D3100 and I absolutely love it. It’s so easy to use and the starter lens it comes with is great. Definitely check whatever camera you’re thinking about in the store though- some cameras can be bigger or bulkier than others.

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