Monday, June 2, 2008

Calling clams and mussels, alive alive o

Despite the headline of this post, it was refreshing to see live clams and mussels for sale at the local grocery this weekend. The clams and mussels are among the "good" buys, according to the environmental advocates who keep tabs on the best (read: earth-friendliest) seafoods to buy.

Don't be intimidated by cooking fresh bivalves: Really, they're easier than many types of fish. All they need is a good washing, a quick soak in a sink of lightly salted water to remove grit, then pop them in a pan with some herbs, garlic and a little white wine. Certainly you can get more complex, but that's the bare-bones method of cooking them.

Remember that the key to buying fresh clams and mussels is to make sure they're alive. How do you do that? Well, the key is shell movement. Their shells should close (they don't snap shut immediatley, so give them a few seconds) when the mussels (or clams) are touched or moved.

If you need to refrigerate them at home, here's how: Get them out of their mesh bag and wash them, carefully removing any of the "beards" that may be hanging around. Discard any mussels that don't close during this process; if they don't close when you're scrubbing them, then that mussel has gone to meet its Maker. Rinse them well, then lay them out on a damp towel on a large baking sheet. Cover with another damp towel, then put in the refrigerator.

Upon cooking, the shells will open. Any shells that don't open, toss. That, too, is a critter that's not fit to eat.