Allow 1–1½ pt. mussels per person. Scrape and clean the shells thoroughly in several lots of cold water. Mussels are not opened with a knife like oysters, but open themselves during cooking. The only part of a mussel which needs to be removed is the breathing apparatus, which is found in the form of a black strip known as the “beard”. This is removed after the shells have been opened.
There are two simple methods of opening mussels:
For a small quantity of 1–2 pt., place the mussels (after cleaning) in a rinsed wide pan and cover them closely with a folded damp tea-cloth. Heat quickly, shaking the pan at intervals, and at the end of 5–7 min. the shells will open. Remove from the heat promptly as overcooking toughens them.
To 3½ pt. of cleaned mussels in a wide pan, add 1 shallot, finely chopped, 5–6 stalks of parsley, a sprig of thyme, ⅓ of a bay leaf, a pinch of pepper and ¼ pt. dry white wine (½ water and ½ dry cider could be used). Cover the pan tightly and cook over a sharp heat for 5–6 min., shaking the pan from time to time. Remove from the heat as soon as the shells open.