Impromptu Cooking Party: Steamed Mussels, Raw Oysters, Asparagus Carrot Pasta, and So Much Wine!

As a college student most of the parties I attend involve loud music, gratuitous amounts of cheap disgusting alcohol, and costumes. However, last night we had a dinner party sans music and costumes and it was beyond lovely. Yesterday had certainly been ‘one of those day’; it was rainy, cold, and I attended a memorial in the early afternoon so by 4pm I was understandably disheartened. I had been entertaining the idea of buying mussels for most of the week so I decided that would be my pick me up for Friday night. So the roomies, a few friends, and I piled into the car and power shopped our way through Granville Islands Market. We picked up 5 pounds of mussels for $30 and a dozen oysters for 75 cents each. There were six of us so this feast came out to about 8 bucks per person. Right? I know. Amazing. While I do eat out every now and then, I rarely, if ever, go to seafood restaurants since I just can’t afford to drop minimum $40 bucks on one meal. I mean, you can’t have seafood without wine or pasta or bread…you see how these things can add up in a restaurant. But if you’re a student with a stove, a big pot, and some friends all of this can be yours for around $12. Shellfish may be intimidating but once you realize how cheap they can be and how easy they are to cook you’ll be just as stoked as I am over the idea of planning weekend seafood parties.

On da half shell

So the plan we kind of came up with on the way/while in the market was to steam some mussels and to buy some oysters for raw consumption. When we decided we might need to eat something will the shellfish I ran to the produce section and ended up finding some lovely asparagus on sale. I decided we’d throw them into a pasta cause really what is a seafood dinner without pasta? Some bread was purchased too as I didn’t have quite enough left over for everyone. Then we took the obligatory trip to the liquor store to pick up wine. Luckily my favorite Malbec only costs $8.39 in total(like including tax, hst, bottle fee, extra stupid Canadian liquor taxes, etc!!! So cheap!!) so that was an easy choice. As soon as all the purchases were home and unloaded we started in on the cooking, chopping, and shucking. The oysters put up quite a fight.

Work them oysters, boys

And Lizzy almost lost a finger to the veggies

Lizzy is a veggie chopping champion

Meanwhile I was cleaning and de-bearding mussels. We looked up some instructions as we quickly realized that none of us had every made mussels before. Luckily all you really need to do is give them a rise in some cold water, a quick scrub to take off any nasties stuck to the shell, and then pull out the weird hairy beard thing hanging out of their shell.

Showin those mussels who's da boss...its me, I'm the boss
So. Many. Mussels!!

Once all the oysters got opened we took a break from prepping the mussels and pasta to eat some oysters. It was my first time eating raw oysters as well as a few of the others. I was quite skeptical so I watched the first round go down without partaking. Eventually I was forced to have one. We were just squeezing a little lemon juice over them then sucking them down. I wasn’t sure what to expect and was particularly taken aback when I was informed you’re supposed to just swallow them whole. It was a bit…brutal…

The boys were excited...we were...apprehensive...

The oysters we bought were really big so it was a lot to take in one swallow. For my second one I tried chewing it, but the texture was pretty unpleasant and it was still hard to swallow down. Next time I think I’ll try smaller oysters/stick with cooked seafood…Anyways, by this point all the mussels were clean, the veggies were chopped, and it was time to start cookin. In the mussel pot I threw in some garlic, butter, and white wine and let that all melt/cook down before adding the mussels. I sauteed the veggies in some olive oil and garlic while cooking the pasta on the side. Once the mussel’s butter, wine, and garlic mixture had melted down nicely we piled in the mussels and cranked up the heat for some steaming action.

Yaaaay mussels!!!!!

Luckily everything was timed just right so as the mussels were finishing up their steaming, the pasta was being mixed and sauced. I just mixed some spaghetti with the asparagus and carrots then tossed it in olive oil, fresh ground pepper, salt, and a bit of parmesan. Yum. Mussels only need to cook for about 8-10 minutes, basically as soon as they start opening up its time to turn them off as you don’t want to over cook them. When we pulled the lid off the pot the smell was overwhelmingly delicious! It was incredible. During steaming mussels let off quite a bit of moisture so the faint smell of the sea was there lingering with the butter and the garlic. Legit, it was divine.

It looks like they're opening their little mouths to say "eeeeeat meeeeee"

Once they were finished we plated it up and started eatin!

This picture is nice but it doesn't do this meal justice. It was AWESOME

We ate. And ate. And ate. AND ATE! There were so many mussels! We had at least 12 each/I think it was more. After a full bottle of wine it gets hard to keep track. Still we ate them all, wept a little over how full we were, and then set in on the broth!

SO many shells, so much happy/full/Niklas making weird faces, and so much broth!!

It was a great evening. We ate, we drank, we laughed, and we tried on my christmas sweater. I will definitely be having more dinner parties and definitely making mussels again! Also thanks to Maddie for takings most of the photos tonight. I promised you’d get photo cred. Also also even after we attacked the broth there was still some left over. I saved it and will definitely be using it to make some kind of soup soon so get excited!

Steamed Mussels

  • 5 pounds mussels, cleaned (discard any mussels that are open or cracked, you want them closed and alive when you start steaming)
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3 gloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup water

In a large pot add the butter, garlic, and wine. Turn heat to medium-high and stir occasionally as butter melts down. Once butter is fully melted add cleaned mussels (its ok if they’re stacked on top of each other.) Cover and let steam for 8-10 minutes. Make sure its actually steaming in the pot other wise they’ll take longer/might not cook. Once the mussels start opening up they are done. Turn off heat, take to the table and serve out of the pot. Keep covered so they remaining mussels/broth stay warm. Once finished with mussels use pieces of bread to dredge up the leftover broth.

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