My love for mussels runs pretty deep but somehow I never make them at home. I had a bit of an idea to hot smoke some and rather than use my wok, like I normally do to smoke fish, I went on the hunt for a little smoker. Whilst in Kmart I noticed a small charcoal bbq and aside from it being just $25, it was the perfect contraption that would work as a smoker. It’s rather simple to set up really. All I did was heat up some charcoal beads in the bottom tray of the bbq and it was ready to roll.
As for the mussels, I went with the flavours you find around coastal Croatia – garlic, olive oil, rosemary and truffle – and worked them into the recipe. In a way these mussels are semi grilled and smoked at the same time. The smoke comes from dried sprigs of rosemary (I dry my own herbs) and adds a sweet and woody layer to the deliciously juicy mussels. This is so easy to make and I urge you to try them, even if you don’t want to use truffle.
When buying mussels just make sure you get ones that are still alive, with their shells tightly closed. If you see some that are still open just give them a tap. If they slowly close they’re alive and still ok; if not, they’re dead and only good for the bin.
serves 2 as a starter
While the smoker is heating, place a large lidded saucepan over high heat. Put the mussels into the saucepan with a couple of tablespoons of water. Place the lid on and quickly toss the saucapan over the heat, shaking around for a minute so the mussels steam. Remove the lid and check to see that most of the mussels have opened. If there are any closed mussels, discard them as they’re not fresh.
Remove the mussels from the saucepan and snap off the top half of the shell. No need to keep this half of the shell, so you can discard it. Using a paring knife cut through the ligament that connects the flesh to the shell.
With the flesh still in the half-shell, top each mussel with the grated garlic, sea salt flakes, parmesan, parsley and a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
Remove the rack from the preheated charcoal bbq and carefully place the mussels onto it. Return the rack to the bbq, put the lid back on and cook for about five minutes. Remove the lid and toss the dried sprigs of rosemary over the coals and quickly put the lid back on before you lose the smoke. Cook for a further 6-10 minutes.
To serve, garnish with thinly shaved black truffle and fennel fronds.