How to clean and prepare mollusks (I)


A few days ago I prepared some steamed cockles and I realized that it might be interesting to include a chapter in our cooking course on how to clean and prepare shellfish. So here is one more chapter within our food preparation topic.

In a kitchen we could include the shellfish within a larger chapter on shellfish. Including crustaceans, decapods (gills (crabs, spider crabs, etc.) and macruros (prawns, prawns, etc.)), barnacles (barnacles). Although today I want to stop at bivalves and cephalopods.

Among the best known bivalves (two shells) we find mussels, oysters, cockles, clams, razor clams, etc. In a generic way, quality is marked by size, the higher the caliber they are more appreciated and of course more expensive. Other aspects to consider is their presentation in the market, whether or not they come from a nursery (although there are nurseries in estuaries and natural flows, which gives them a quality similar to those captivated in the wild.

The presentation in the market refers to the way in which we can find it. Frozen or fresh. Frescoes must be alive and must respond to external stimuli, such as blows. In addition, everyone must go through water treatment plants for 42 hours since their feeding is done by filtering the sea water so it can have toxins or pollutants.

The mussels are raised, generally, in captivity by means of rafts. It is usually a very affordable mollusk, although we can also find more expensive and tasty mussels that come from their wild growth on the rocks.

How to clean mussels. We will first check all the mussels and discard any that are broken or open. The rest are cleaned by tapping with the non-sharp part of the knife to remove the crustaceans that are stuck to their valves. Then they finish cleaning by scraping with that same part of the knife (a lace that you do not have much affection for) or with a steel scourer under the stream of water, finally the bypass is torn off, some threads that protrude from one end and used to hold onto the rock or the punt.

The most common way to prepare mussels is to steam them with a little white wine or water, some peppercorns, some bay leaves and lemon juice. We take them to the fire cover, removing them when they open. We can leave them like this or we can continue preparing them for a vinaigrette or to glaze them with bechamel, etc.

Clams, cockles and chirlas, first we will discard those that are broken or open and that when hitting them do not close (that is, they are not alive). The mussels are collected from basins or rocks, however this type of bivalve is collected from the sea floor and usually brings land so it is good to put them in salted water (35 grams per liter) and between 4 and 6 hours to release all the land before using them.

The way to prepare them will depend on the dish to which we use them, we can:

  • Cook them by adding them at the end in a sauce or stew. They would be put just before serving the elaboration. Once opened due to cooking, they are served.
  • Steam them open. In the same way as mussels.
  • Cook them on the grill. It is made with cockles, clams and razor clams mainly. They are placed on top of a hot griddle or pan to open and a little oil with garlic and finely chopped parsley is added.

  • Open them to take raw (only clams). It is prepared especially for clams and oysters. With the clams it is enough to open them with a lace on the opposite side to the hinge. We separate it from the shell and put it back on it. We put them on ice crushed with some lemon wedges. With oysters it is done in a similar way but using an oyster opener. In addition, the "beards" (intestines) can be removed.

And so far our chapter dedicated to bivalves. In a few days we will learn how to clean and prepare an octopus and a squid.

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Photo | Oyster opener Aceros de hispania
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