Steamed Mussels or Clams

A classic seafood dinner that’s totally fun and super-easy.
TIME 30 minutes
MAKES 4 servings
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large shallot or small red onion, chopped
½ cup white wine, beer, or water
4 to 6 pounds mussels or hard-shell clams, well scrubbed, those with broken shells discarded
½ cup chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish
2 lemons, quartered, for serving

1 Put the oil in a large pot over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to soften, 3 to 5 minutes.

2 Add the wine along with the mussels, turn the heat up to high, and cover the pot. Cook, gently shaking the pot occasionally, until they all (or nearly all) open, 8 to 10 minutes for mussels and 10 to 15 minutes for clams. Remove the pot from the heat.

3 Scoop the mussels or clams into a serving bowl. Remove as many shallots as you can with a slotted spoon and scatter them on top. Pour or ladle the accumulated liquid over the mussels or clams, being careful to leave any sediment in the bottom of the pan. Garnish with the parsley and serve with the lemon wedges.

  • Tomato-Basil Steamed Mussels or Clams: Use garlic instead of the shallots, stir in 1 cup chopped tomatoes with the wine, and garnish with chopped fresh basil leaves.
  • French-Style Steamed Mussels or Clams: Use butter instead of olive oil and stir in ½ cup heavy cream along with the mussels or clams.
  • Curry-Coconut Steamed Mussels or Clams: Use butter instead of olive oil, 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger and 2 tablespoons curry powder instead of the shallots, and 1 cup coconut milk instead of the wine. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro leaves.

  • Small to medium clams are best for steaming.
  • To eat the mussels or clams, just hold the shell in one hand and scoop out the meat with a fork or your fingers or teeth.
  • Good crusty bread is the very best thing to soak up the cooking juices, but you can also serve this dish on top of rice, noodles, or boiled potatoes.

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