There are two kinds of people in this world: those who love shellfish and those who are missing out on one of life’s greatest pleasures.
Fortunately my children are being raised right and will eat pretty much anything that once lived in water (yes, even sushi.) Even then, I eyed the Specially Selected Mussels in Garlic Butter Sauce skeptically several times before I finally bought it. Shrimp and sushi are one thing, but mussels have a stronger taste, like briny clams. I wondered if they would be any good, and even if they were, I wondered if I’d end up having to eat the whole box by myself (a sacrifice I was willing to make, however).
Like all of Aldi’s seafood, the mussels are purchased from sustainable fisheries. The box advertises “Certified Best Aquaculture Practices” by Responsibleseafood.org. I like buying seafood from Aldi because of their commitment to sustainability.
Preparing the mussels is ridiculously easy. There are directions on the box for sauteing or microwaving, and both methods will get food on the table in under 10 minutes. It has conflicting information on defrosting, though: under “Handling Instructions” it says “Keep frozen until ready to prepare” but also “If thawed, store in refrigerator and use within 2 days.” However, thawing isn’t necessary because they cook very quickly from frozen, and you don’t want to risk overcooking them.
When you open the box, you find a vacuum-sealed plastic bag full of delicious frozen mussels, cleaned and prepared with a light sauce. The directions give you three options: 1) place the contents in a saucepan on the stove and cook on high for 3-4 minutes, then reduce heat to a simmer for 2-3 minutes, 2) microwave them in a covered microwave-safe dish and cook on high for 5-6 minutes, or 3) puncture the bag and microwave them for 5-6 minutes in the bag itself. The mussels were packed in so tight that I thought the third method sounded easiest (and used the fewest dishes). With any of the above methods, you don’t need to add extra oil or water because they cook in their own sauce.
I followed the instructions for microwaving in the bag. They came out thoroughly warmed but not overcooked. (You never want to overcook shellfish because it ruins the texture, so I was relieved on this point.)
In the meantime, I boiled a large pot of water to make spaghetti; the picture on the box shows the mussels on a bed of pasta, and it looked like a delicious pairing. I added a little bit of butter, olive oil, and garlic powder to the pasta after it was cooked and then dumped the warm mussels/sauce over the whole thing. It was a quick and easy lunch for me and my two kids, and we had leftovers.
The mussels were chewy but not rubbery, and the flavor was salty and briny. It reminded us strongly of our trips to the beach because it was like eating something cooked in seawater, in the best possible way. It’s a little messy and awkward to scrape the mussels out of the shell while you’re eating, so keep an extra bowl on the table for the shells and hand out lots of napkins.
The sauce on the mussels lent a briny flavor to the pasta, too, and the garlic wasn’t overpowering, even though I’d added more. All three of us lapped it up happily.
The box weighs a full pound (16 ounces) and states that it contains 2 servings, but you can stretch that into 3-4 servings if you make enough pasta (or rice, or toasty bread) to stretch out the meat. Next time I would also like to add some sweet peas or stir-fried vegetables to make a more complete meal.
If you don’t like seafood or the taste of saltwater, then these mussels are not for you. But if you love stronger-flavored shellfish like oysters or clams, then give these mussels a try. They’re affordable, easy, and turn an everyday pasta dish into a restaurant-style meal. I look forward to trying them in other dishes/combinations. And they would pair beautifully with the Winking Owl Pinot Grigio.