Northeast Coast Steamed Mussels

One of the best things about traveling is trying the food a region is known for. After spending the last two summers exploring the western U.S., where it’s all about beef and buffalo, this year Roy and I headed to the northeast. Above is Peggy’s Cove in Nova Scotia, Canada where fishing is still a common way of making a living. I sampled the first mussels of my trip here – they were part of a seafood chowder – and I was hooked.

Prospect, Nova Scotia where Roy’s grandma grew up is just down the road from Peggy’s Cove. Her father was a fisherman just like every other man that lived there. Today, it’s said there is only one fisherman left in the village.

Prince Edward Island, or PEI as the natives call it, is known for its blue mussels. Notice the dark colored buoys in the water? That’s a mussel farm. Baby mussels are put into a net that looks like a hanging sleeve and they happily eat and grow while being washed by the clear water. After a couple of years they are harvested. Living in their farm environment, they aren’t muddy or gritty and are very easy to cook and eat.

While in Canada, and then later in Maine and Massachusetts, we bought mussels at the grocery for two dollars and some cents a pound. Wow! Even in a motor home it was easy to cook up a mess of them. They are great as an appetizer or the main dish. The first time I made them, I used what I had on hand to add flavor to the broth. Traditionally, mussels are steamed with some white wine, but I found chicken broth was just as delicious – and I just kept making them that way! However, feel free to throw in 1/4 cup of white wine if you so desire!


For every 2 pounds of mussels:

2 tablespoons butter

6 cloves garlic, finely minced or put through a press

1/2 cup chopped red onion

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

2 cups chicken broth (additional 1/4 cup white wine optional)

Rinse each mussel and check to make sure it is closed. If it closes up after you handle it, then it’s fine to use. But if it is cracked, open, or has an unpleasant odor, throw it out! In the several times I have made this dish, I always toss several.

If the mussel has a beard (a little string hang hanging out of the shell) gently tug it back and forth and pull it off.

Melt butter over medium low heat. Add onions and parsley and sauté until onions are just about to get tender. Add garlic and sauté 30 more seconds. Gently add mussels and carefully stir to cover them with the mixture. Turn heat up to high and pour in broth. Cover the pan and continue to cook on high for 5 minutes.

Take the cover off and give the mussels a stir. They should be open and look the the photo above. If some are still closed, put the cover back on and continue to cook on high for an additional two minutes. Throw out any mussels that are still closed after that.

Ladle the mussels and broth into serving bowls. Serve with melted butter to dip mussels in (honestly this broth is so good it isn’t needed!) and crusty bread to sop up the broth. Or serve the mussels and broth over cooked pasta. I’d love to hear if any one tries this. Feel free to email me at or make a comment below!


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