Mussel Week Returns!

The ocean was not kind to us this week. There were 18-20 foot swells in Bodega Bay and Ft. Bragg for most of the week and the poor little boats could not get out. There was supposed to be a craaaaazy rain storm tonight, but thankfully we are still dry in the North Bay. If it had rained, the oyster and mussel farms would be shut down and then we would have NO FISH PART TWO! That would be a nightmare. Yuck.

Photo: James Collier


We are so very lucky to have delicious mussels from Cove Mussel Company. I have been able to spend some time with owner Scott Zahl and his girlfriend Patti. They are such lovely people. I am posting my recipe for Thai Red Curry Mussels below along with links to a profile on Cove Mussel Co., past recipes, and a past Mussel Week Wrap-up.


Thai Red Curry Mussels

I am curry-obsessed. I have had a different kind of curry every day for the last 8 days. It might be time for an intervention, but first I will make this recipe again.

2 lbs mussels, washed and bearded (These mussels are VERY easy to beard. A good video tutorial is found here. I disagree with her on one point. If a mussel is open, tap it lightly & give it a couple of minutes to close. If it stays open, then throw it out.)

2 shallots, chopped

3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

1 Tbsp Thai red curry paste (Go with 2 Tbsp if you like things a little bit spicy. I always do.)

1 can unsweetened coconut milk

2 Tbsp fish sauce

2 tsp light brown sugar

Juice of 1 lime

1 Tbsp corn or peanut oil

1 handful of torn Thai basil (Regular basil works in a pinch.)

2 Tbsp chopped cilantro leaves and stems

Steamed rice for serving


1. In a blender, combine the shallots, garlic, and curry paste with 1/8 cup water and blend until smooth.

2. In a bowl, combine the coconut milk, fish sauce, lime juice, and brown sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.

3. In a large pot with a lid over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the curry base and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is fragrant. This should take about 30 seconds.

4. Stir in the coconut milk mixture and bring to a boil. Allow the sauce to simmer, uncovered, for two minutes.

5. Add the cleaned mussels to the sauce and cover, cooking for five to eight minutes, or until the mussels have opened. If there are many mussels that have not opened, replace the lid and keep cooking until more mussels open.

5. Serve over rice and sprinkle with basil and cilantro.



Mussel Links

Lots of wonderful recipes and additional information found below!

Know Your Source: Cove Mussel Co.

Caring for your Mussels. THEY’RE ALIVE!

Nova Scotia Steamed Mussels

Beer Steamed Mussels

Mussel Wrap-up





Mussel Wrap-up

I am such a lucky fishmongeress (I’ve decided that is my official title.). Opening my email and checking Twitter after the Saturday drop is like running downstairs on Christmas morning. Instead of new ballet shoes and a Janet Jackson CD, there are pretty pictures and brilliant recipes. It made me so happy to see all of the interesting things that y’all did with Scott Zahl’s delicious mussels. Siren SeaSA subscribers are impressive cooks. Abundant proof found below.

Photo courtesy of

Once again, Michelle of Nom Nom Paleo took pictures that made me want to eat what she made RIGHT THEN. This week my inappropriately timed seafood craving was for Thai Steamed Mussels at 6 AM. Mmmmmmmm. I love her sassy commentary and beautiful photos. You should be reading her blog!

Photo by Amie Pfeifer

Amie, aka Fab Food Lover, made Mussel, Corn, & Tomato Soup.

“I started with several slices of Fatted Calf pancetta that I sliced into lardons. After I rendered them, I added half a red onion, minced plus 2 garlic cloves smashed. I sauteed them for about 5 minutes (maybe longer, I was de-bearding the mussels at the same time). Then I realized some of my tomatoes were about to turn, so I tossed in a handful of tiny Sun Gold cherry tomatoes and a couple of small Early Girl tomatoes that I quartered.  Then I added about a cup of Cline Oakley Four Whites, added some fresh thyme and tossed in the mussels, put the lid on and let cook for 10 minutes.  Once the mussels were done, I took all of them out of their shells and served. But then I realized that corn would be a great addition. So I had half the soup without corn on Sunday night and then last night I boiled up an ear of corn and added the kernels to the reheated soup. It was magical.”

All finished with a squeeze of lemon. It sounds amazing. You had me at lardons…

Photo courtesy of Oriana Tiell

New subscribers Oriana and Steve sent in a picture of the mussel feast! Looking delicious!

Otto, another new subscriber, described how he prepared his mussels.

“We steamed them on the stove with garlic, cippolino onions, thyme, olive oil, butter, and some pinot grigio from napa (a slightly modified recipe from tyler florence on and they were wonderful!”



You can follow @SirenSeaSA on Twitter and hear all about the fish I am stalking and the fishermen I’m harassing. You can tell me about what you made with your new edible ocean friends. It will be FUN.

@marshmelones  I love the photo @lerrie took of our mussels this weekend.
@marshmelones I cleaned, debearded & cooked mussels for the first time ever onight. Normally don’t really like them, but yum! Thanks to Siren SeaSA.
@Post24th Yum Siren SeaSA’s mussels steamed in @dirt_and_beer‘s fresh hop brew, served on zucchini “pasta”!
@mlangbehn Today was our first delivery, and the mussels were divine. Too cold to barbeque, so we used the “Joy of Cooking recipe”. Yum!
@LBM  Fresh pasta with fresher Siren SeaSA mussels, prepared with a recipe from The Silver Spoon.
Can’t wait to see what happens with the albacore that will be showing up in your coolers this weekend!


Mussels from Cove Mussel Co. & Novia Scotia Steamed Mussels

This week was supposed to be sardine week. I have been trying to get sardines since Siren launched, and I have failed. Repeatedly. Failing makes me grumpy.

The Pacific sardine fishery is tricky. It opens and everyone rushes out to haul in their quota. Once the quotas are met, the fishery shuts down and most of the catch is block frozen within 24 hours of being caught. Last week the fishery opened up on Thursday, and by the end of the weekend most boats were done fishing and the catch was being frozen. Millions of pounds of tasty little sardines were hauled in and frozen DAYS before I could use them. I had an opportunity to buy block frozen sardines that had been frozen for less than 48 hours, but I really would rather change course and stick to my standards. I am not sure if I will be able to get sardines this year. I am making it a priority as soon as the fishery opens again, but the timing could continue to be an issue. Sardines are my tiny white whales.

We have delicious mussels from Cove Mussel Co. this week. We are lucky to have them as these are some DAMN fine mussels. I will be linking to past care, recipe, and source posts. I was lucky enough to get to spend some time at Cove Mussel Co. and see how the mussels are grown.

I am not too sure where I first came across this week’s recipe, but it has become something I do whenever I have access to mussels and an open flame. In fact, I don’t even know why they are called Nova Scotia Steamed Mussels. Do they use a lot of dill in Nova Scotia? I probably won’t lose any sleep trying to crack that mystery. These mussels are steamed on the grill, so all of you San Francisco folks can get outside and relish the belated arrival of summer weather. If you prefer to cook indoors, please check out Neil Davidson’s mussel recipe from last series. It is OH SO GOOD.



Nova Scotia Steamed Mussels


2 lbs mussels

2 Tbsp cold butter, cubed

1 Tbsp chopped garlic

1 Tbsp chopped dill

1/4 Cup white wine

Not-so-special Equipment: Heavy Duty Foil


1. Preheat the grill of your choice. You want HIGH HEAT.

2. Lay one sheet of heavy duty foil on the counter vertically, and another on top of it horizontally.

3. Scrub mussels and remove beards. Discard any mussels that are open and do not close when tapped.

4.Place mussels in the center of the foil. Scatter butter, garlic, and dill over the top of the mussels. Bring the sides of the foil up to form a little bowl and drizzle the wine over the top.

5. Bring the edges of the foil together to form a loose packet. Leave lots of room for the mussels to open.

6. Place the packet on the grill and barbecue with the lid closed for 15 minutes.

7. Remove packet to a heatproof surface.

8. Carefully open the foil and dump the mussels and the sauce into a pretty bowl.

Eat this with some nice crusty bread!



Some notes on storing mussels

Photo: James Collier

Your mussels are alive, and you want to keep them that way until cooking.  Dead mussels deteriorate quickly and can make you very sick if you eat them.  Luckily, dead mussels declare themselves by staying closed after cooking.  Throw those duds away.  The mussels that you have are 24 hours out of the water, so there should be very few dead bodies.

When you pick up your new bivalve friends, they will be packaged like this.

Mussels cannot be wrapped in plastic.  EVER.  They will die.  So, inside the soft cooler you will find an ice pack, ice chips, and newspaper.  The bundle of mussels will be wrapped in newspaper to protect the cooler from the mussels and the mussels from the air.  Mussels are finicky, they hate direct contact with air but they can only be covered by breathable materials.

The bag of mussels inside will be fresh out of the water.  There will be seaweed, grit, baby mussels, moss and maybe a worm or two.  My strategy is to leave the mussels as-is until right before I cook them.

If you are not cooking the mussels immediately, place them in a bowl with ice and cover them with a wet rag or paper towels.

Keep the bowl in the coldest part of your refrigerator and change the ice out daily.  When kept this way, the mussels should be good until Thursday or Friday.

I hope you enjoy eating these pretty little guys.  Please see the recipe for Beer Steamed Mussels for instructions on how to clean and de-beard.

Know your source: Cove Mussel Co.

Cove Mussel Co. on a beautiful sunny day.

I was lucky enough to meet Scott Zahl and his girlfriend Patti Collins while watching some friends play in a bar during Western Days in Point Reyes Station.  It was a totally chance meeting, one that led to me having the best oyster I have ever had AND finding the perfect source for Siren SeaSA’s shellfish.  That was a great day, but more on that during oyster week!

I <3 Bivalves. A mussel and an oyster fresh from the water.

Owner/operator Scott Zahl has been cultivating Mediterranean mussels and Pacific oysters here for over twenty-five years.  The oyster and mussel beds are located along Highway 1 on Tomales Bay just outside of Marshall, CA.  I had the privilege of visiting the farm with James Collier, the man responsible for the gorgeous photos, and his wife Kim.

First, a little background on our farmer.

Scott Zahl on his farm.

Scott was raised in Hawaii and lived there until college.  After five years in Santa Barbara and a degree in marine biology from UCSB, Scott moved to Tomales and began working for Tomales Bay Oyster Co.  There was a change of ownership in the winter of 1983, and production was temporarily stopped.  Scott and a partner decided to start out on their own and begin cultivating mussels.  Scott described the early years as a lot of learning by trial and error.  Cove Mussel Co. was one of the first in the area to attempt to grow mussels, and after you taste them, I think that you will agree that they were quite successful.

The mussels are Mediterranean mussels, brought to Tomales Bay on the hulls of trading ships.  Scott gathers the seed mussels from Tomales Bay and transfers them to his farm.

Brand new baby.


The seed mussels start out very small and are ready for harvest in six months.

Grown-ups, ready for harvest.

The mussels are grown in mesh bags that are placed high in the water column, thereby avoiding sand and grit.  Scott spends a lot of time agitating the mussels.  They like to be moved around a lot.  They come out of the water meaty, tender, and delicious.  Once removed from their mesh cage, they are immediately weighed and delivered.

Patti Collins, weighing and bagging mussels.

Ready for delivery.

Aren’t they lovely?  They are certainly tasty.

BONUS:  You can feel good about eating aquacultured mussels and oysters.  Molluscan shellfish are filter feeders, meaning they actually clean the water.  It is believed that the presence of oyster and mussel farms actually improves the conditions of the surrounding area.  The water purifying properties of these shellfish has lead to strict monitoring of chemical and bacterial contamination in and around harvest areas.  If Tomales Bay gets more than a half an inch of rain, the oyster and mussel farms do not harvest to prevent contaminants that may have washed down during the rain from entering the food supply.

I am so excited for you all to try these mussels!  Scott and Patti are wonderful people who truly seem to love what they do.  I hope that you all enjoy their hard work.

Anna Larsen and Scott Zahl.




Beer Steamed Mussels

Chef Neil Davidson has worked at a shady hole-in-the-wall that you might have heard of.  Ad Hoc.  Not too shabby.  He is currently the co-founder and chef at Mission Gastroclub.

Now that his street cred has been established, I would like to mention some other awesome things about Neil.  He recognizes the genius of David Byrne. He plays the trombone.  He is dating my favorite dairy princess.  Oh, and he volunteered to write, test-drive and serve this amazing recipe for some friends last week.  Neil is good people AND he will cater your next party.  If you would like to hire Neil (You should.) email him at

I’m telling you, MAKE THIS.  It was so delicious.  We finished every last mussel and the sopped up all the broth with a loaf of bread.

Photo by Kimberley Hasselbrink of The Year in Food


Isn’t it just beautiful?  Now, gather your ingredients, invite some friends over, and show off.


Beer Steamed Mussels

Yield: One large bowl of cooked mussels

Quantity Ingredients
4 pounds Fresh, live mussels
½ pound Slab bacon, skin off
5 each Roma tomatoes
2 tbsp Kosher salt
½ cup Olive oil
1 tsp Fleur de sel
4 sprigs Thyme
1 each Lemon
½ cup sugar
½ cup water
1 bottle (12oz) Belgian golden beer
1 each Yellow onion
4 oz Hard cheese (Idiazabal, Manchego or Parmesan)
½ tsp Cayenne pepper



  1. Start by making the oven-roasted tomatoes.  Set the oven to 400.  First, peel the tomatoes.  The best way to do this is to quickly blanch them in boiling water.  Bring a large pot of water (at least 2 quarts) with 2 tbsp salt up to a boil.  Mark an ‘x’ with a knife in the bottom of each tomato (this will help the skin come off more easily).  Drop the tomatoes in the boiling water for 20-30 seconds, until the skin starts to wrinkle.  Take them out of the boiling water and immediately drop them in an ice bath.
  2. When the tomatoes are cool, peel the skins off, cut the tomatoes in half the long way, place them in a baking pan and drizzle olive oil over each tomato along with the fleur de sel and thyme.  Roast them covered for 30 minutes, and uncovered for another 15.
  3. While the tomatoes are roasting, take the lemons, and using a vegetable peeler, peel off the outer rind.  Try not to peel off too much pith (the white part) because that is bitter.
  4. Next, put the ½ cup sugar in a pan and add the ½ cup water.  Put this on high heat on the stove.  When it starts boiling, stir to dissolve all the sugar, and then add the lemon rind.  Simmer at medium heat for 5 minutes.  Remove the lemon rind from the water to cool.  (The simple syrup that remains will have lovely lemon flavor to it, save this!)  When the rind is cool, cut into long, thin strips.
  5. Now, clean the mussels.  Spray them down with cold water, making sure to get any dirt off of them.  Next, de-beard the mussels.  Each mussel should have some strings coming out of one side, grab on to those and pull.  With a little bit of pressure, they should come off cleanly.  Rinse the mussels with clean water again.
  6. Cut the bacon into lardons.  Do this by cutting the slab into long strips that are ½ inch thick.  Then take each strip and cut those into ½ thick ‘matchsticks’.  Now, dice the onion into medium (1/2” thick) dice.
  7. Saute the bacon in a large pan (that can fit all the mussels) on medium heat until it starts to get brown.  Add the onion and cook until soft.  Add the beer and cayenne, and bring up to a boil.  Add the mussels and cover.  Leave the heat on medium high for about two minutes.  Take off the lid, and if the mussels have opened, they’re done.  If they haven’t, cover the pan and leave on the heat for another minute.
  8. Pour the mussels, the broth with the bacon and onions into a large serving bowl, add the tomato, candied lemon rind and shave some cheese on top.


Serve with some fresh sourdough bread and a stronger, but dry and crisp beer, such as Upright 7 or Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale.


Photo by Kimberley Hasselbrink of The Year in Food


Drop One: Mussels!

This week is now officially mussel week.  I had grand plans for sending out Bodega Bay King salmon.  The fish that have been coming in from Bodega have been SO PRETTY and SO DELICIOUS.  I know this because I “tested” it for seven straight days.  My life is pretty rough.  The winds are blowing and the fishing boats cannot get out.  Triton is smiting me for that time I tripped on the deck of a sailboat and dropped my beer can over the railing.  No salmon.  No black cod.  No halibut.  No fishies.  It’s a blessing in disguise, but my oh my did it give me a heart attack.  If I find a way to atone for my transgressions, we will all have delicious salmon fillet for drop two.

I am absolutely thrilled for you all to try the mussels farmed by Scott Zahl of Cove Mussel Co.  They are incredible.  The best I have ever had, and they are cultivated just outside of Marshall, CA.

Each week I will post a recipe from one of my chef friends with beer and/or wine pairings for that week’s fish/mollusk/crustacean/sea critter on Wednesday night.  On Thursdays I will post background information on the fisherman or farmer, and on Friday I will post some helpful tips for storing and prepping your new aquatic friends.

Thank you SO much for being a part of this adventure.  I am very interested in what you think, so please don’t hesitate to contact me.