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Thursday, March 15, 2012 01:36 am

Mussels steamed in Guinness


Corned beef and cabbage may not be traditional Irish fare, but seafood is. Even when potato crops failed, the island nation could depend on the abundance of fish and seafood. Guinness Stout is practically synonymous with Ireland. It’s a classic beverage accompaniment to oysters on the half shell; Guinness and Oyster festivals are popular throughout the English-speaking world. Guinness pairs equally well with the more humble mussel. Combining the two (with the addition of some cream) is as classic Irish as it gets, and a match made in heaven.

Fresh mussels are inexpensive, delicious and highly nutritious. They’re available locally at Robert’s Seafood and occasionally in some groceries’ fresh fish section.

  • 4 lbs. mussels
  • 1 c. chopped leeks, white and pale green parts only
  • 1 c. chopped celery
  • 4 to 6 cloves garlic, sliced thinly, optional
  • 1 T. butter
  • to 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 12 oz. bottle of Guinness
  • 1 c. heavy cream
  • c. chopped parsley, preferably flat-leafed
Rinse the mussels thoroughly. Throw away any with broken shells. If any are open, pinch the shells together or rap them sharply on the counter. If the shells close tightly (clam up), they’re good to use. Throw away any that won’t shut. Pull off and discard any fibrous “beards” that may protrude from the shells. A clean pair of needle-nose pliers works well for this task.

Melt the butter in a large kettle over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, garlic, pepper, and bay leaf, and stir to coat the vegetables. Cover the kettle and sweat the vegetables until softened. Add the mussels to the pan and stir to combine. Pour the Guinness and cream into the kettle, cover and raise the heat to high. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mussels have opened. Discard any mussels that have not opened.

Serve the mussels with their broth either directly from the kettle or in a large deep bowl, sprinkled with the parsley; diners should have largish individual shallow bowls that can hold a generous serving of both the mussels and their delicious broth. Be sure to provide plenty of crusty bread for dipping.

Serves four to six as a first course, two as a main course.
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