The Correct Way to Eat Mussels and 3 More Seafood Tips from Martha Stewart
The cooking mogul talks lobster cook times, simple uses for seaweed, and proper shellfish-eating technique.
Martha Stewart is the queen of summer. The iconic cookbook author and food personality lives on a farm in Bedford, New York, but during the warmer months she flocks to her beach house in Maine. During her sold-out panel at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, Stewart demonstrated how to prepare a simple one-pot clam bake, one of her favorite summer dishes, and waxed poetic about the glories of fresh seafood prepared simply. She also shared a tip for eating mussels, one that she's passed on to her grandchildren, who have, in turn, taught their friends.
"Don't unhinge them," she said. "Take the middle out, and then use that to eat all of your mussels. So it's very elegant." She demonstrated. Indeed, using a mussel shell as a utensil—to work out the bellies and eat them—is much more dignified than picking with fingers and much simpler than using forks, which require washing.
Below, find more seafood insights from Stewart.
1. Don't be intimidated by seaweed.
In Maine, Stewart strolls the beach and collects seaweed, upon which she often serves oysters on the half-shell. So even if you don't feel comfortable cooking with seaweed, you should use it for presentation purposes.
"At my house in Maine, there's seaweed everywhere," Stewart told Food & Wine. "I get kombu. You can pick that up out of the ocean and dry it. It takes like 12 months." After drying the seaweed she mixes it with salt to create seaweed salt, which makes for a robust and briny seasoning.
2. Memorize these numbers for cooking lobster.
"If it's a pound and a quarter fresh from the sea, that's about 13 minutes, up to 18 minutes [of cooking]," said Stewart. "Over 18 minutes, it's overcooked." (She also said that she likes to boil her lobsters with a cup of vodka, because "if you were going to be boiled alive, you'd want to have a drink also.")
An easy way to tell if you've overcooked your lobster? "When you open the lobster and the claw is half the size of the shell, you've overcooked."
Also: The very first thing Stewart does when she buys lobsters is hang them until all the excess water has drained out.
3. Take a close look at clams before buying them.
Make sure that the clam shells are tightly closed before you buy them, said Stewart. And "if they're trying to sell you clams that have cracked shells, say, 'No, not that one.'"
If there's going to be a bit of time between buying them and cooking them, make sure to keep the clams "icy cold," but don't freeze them.