Preparing Bivalves for Your Recipe

@dhouston (417)
United States
January 18, 2007 2:10am CST
Clam chowder. Moules meuniere (mussels). Oyster stew. Mixed seafood paella. So many delicious dishes made from bivalves are a joy to make, serve and eat. Unfortunately, some uninformed cooks find that their shellfish dishes are not optimally enjoyable because sand somehow got into them, making for an unpleasant crunch where no crunch is expected. Bivalves often have sand and other sea debris in their bodies, and if it is not cleaned out, it gets into your teeth. Cleaning bivalves is, fortunately, not difficult. As soon as you get them home, put them in a very large bowl or stock pot where they have plenty of room. Add very colkd water and sea or kosher salt (some of the additives in commercial table salt kill them). If you live in a city with heavily chlorinated tap water, consider using bottled water since the chlorine alsoa kills them. You do not want them to die until they are actually cooking. Sprinkle cornmeal on top of the water, just a small handful. The shellfish will eat it and disgorge the sand from their bodies. Within the hour, you will see hjow much sand and sea debris falls to the bottom of the bowl. Scrub the shells with a stiff brush. If you have mussels, pull out and discard the beards. Rinse the bivalves well and rinse out the container thoroughly. Repeat the process with the salted water and cornmeal 3-4 more times. You may also refrigerate the container overnight. Drain out and rinse one last time before cooking. Bivalves that have been left in peace in the water for a time may open their shells slightly. Tap the shell with a spoon. If it does not close, the bivalve has already died and must be discarded. Fully closed shells indicate a live bivalve; it is fit to eat. Cook the shellfish in liquid for 5-15 minutes. They are done when fully opened. Remove immediately to a large bowl to cool. Do not overcook! Any that do not open after 15 minutes probably died before they were cooked, and must not be eaten. When the shells are cool enough to handle, you may remove the animal from the shell and use in the recipe. Do not discard the cooking liquid. It is delicious when added to fish and seafood chowders, stews and other dishes. It freezees well. For tasty cooking liquid for bivalves, use water, white wine or beer. Add sliced lemon, a bay leaf, thyme and fresh parsley; rosemary is optional. Garlic or onion slices may be added if you like, depending on the final recipe.
2 people like this
2 responses
@villageanne (8554)
• United States
3 Mar 07
I loved reading this discussion. I dont know how I missed it. I have never cooked much seafood. I was raised in the county and we did not have money to purchase seafood. I had never tasted any kind of seafood till after I was married. So I have alot to learn in this area. Thanks for sharing your wonderful knowledge with me.
@lilaclady (28235)
• Australia
24 Jan 07
You put so much into your posts, thank you this is very valuable information, thank you...