Mussels on Pine NeedlesSteven Raichlen
Mussels on Pine Needles
- Yield: Serves 4 as an appetizer, 2 as a main course
- Method: Direct grilling
- Equipment: 2 quarts clean, dried pine needles; two 9-by 13-inch aluminum foil pans, or one 10-inch skillet with holes/perforations in the bottom and one 10-inch skillet without holes.
- 2 pounds fresh mussels (40 to 50) in the shells
- 1 tablespoons raspberry vinegar (optional)
- Melted butter, for serving (optional)
Step 1: Scrub the mussels well with a brush under cold running water, discarding any with cracked shells or shells that fail to close when tapped. Pull out and discard any beards (clumps of black strings) on the side of the mussels. (A needle-nose pliers works well for this.) If using foil pan, poke holes in the bottom of one of the pans, using a flat metal skewer or old paring knife. Pierce the foil with the skewer, then twist it to make a inch hole. The holes should be spaced 2 inches apart.
Step 2: Fill the perforated foil pan with the pine needles; they should be loosely mounded rather than tightly packed. Arrange the mussels on top.
Step 3: Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat it to high. In the best of all worlds, you’ll be grilling over a wood fire. Charcoal is the second-best choice, but you can also do this on a gas grill. There is no need to oil the grill grate.
Step 4: Place the pan with the mussels on the grill. The pine needles will start to smoke and catch fire in a few minutes. At that point, cover with the solid (no holes) foil pan or frying pan and grill over high heat until the mussel shells open and the bivalves are cooked. This will take 5 to 8 minutes, and if you’re working on a gas grill, you may need to help the ignition along with a butane match or lighter.
Step 5: Once the mussel shells begin to open, sprinkle the mussels with the raspberry vinegar, if using. Cover the mussels again and grill for 1 minute longer.
Step 6: Transfer the smoking, steaming pan with the mussels to a heatproof platter and serve the mussels at once, discarding any that have not opened. You eat the mussels with your fingers right out of the pan. Melted butter can be served on the side, but you really don’t need it. Bingo moments don’t get much better than this.