This Instant Pot mussels recipe is fragrant and foolproof

I think long and hard before I add gadgets or tools to my kitchen, so whenever someone gives me an alternative or additional use for an appliance that really works, I do a little happy dance.

In February, a reader wrote into our weekly Food Chat to ask about the utility of multicookers. Hannah Crowley, an executive editor for America’s Test Kitchen product reviews, was our guest that week, and she recommended various uses for the appliance, including for cooking seafood, something I had never done.

“Folks always think of meat for pressure cookers, but since they create a steamy, enclosed environment, they’re great for fish because they keep it nice and moist and tender,” she wrote. “Mussels, too! When you steam mussels under pressure … every shell opens nice and evenly, with perfectly plump and juicy mussels, more so than on the stovetop.”

Mussels are not complicated on the stovetop, but you do often have to remove open ones while waiting for stubborn specimens that are slower to open. Crowley made the Instant Pot method sound so temptingly easy, I had to try making them this way. I used ATK’s technique, but altered the recipe a bit to suit my taste. They were the best mussels I’ve ever made, and so easy.

Indeed, every one of them opened perfectly. If you have mussels that don’t open, discard them. This is how I’ll make them from now on. To start, you set the multicooker to saute and let it heat up for a couple of minutes. Then, you add a bit of oil, shallots and leeks or your favorite mussel-friendly alliums or vegetables and cook just until softened before stirring in garlic and pepper flakes.

When your vegetables smell just right, you add the sorted, cleaned mussels and pour the wine, water or stock and lemon juice over them. After that, you cover, lock the pot, leave your timer at zero and select the pressure-cook option. The mussels cook while the pot comes up to pressure, which takes from six to 10 minutes, depending on your model and how full the pot is.

Stay nearby, however, because you must do a quick release as soon as the appliance reaches pressure to prevent the mussels from overcooking. No shaking. No stirring. You open the appliance and are greeted by the fragrant steam from the sauce, which you’ll want to spoon over your mussels after you portion them out. Don’t forget the crusty bread for dipping.

Instant Pot Mussels With Leeks and White Wine

Uncooked, fresh mussels can be placed in a colander set over a large bowl and refrigerated for up to two days. Top them with a bag of ice, if desired. Do not clean them until just before you are ready to cook. At that time, sort the mussels and discard any with cracked shells. The shells should be tightly closed. If not, give open mussels a gentle squeeze; if they close, keep them. If they do not react, discard.

Rinse the mussels under cold water, scrubbing if necessary, and, if desired, pull off the byssus, or beard, by grasping it with your thumb and forefinger and giving a sharp pull, or cut them off the shell.

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

1 large shallot (about 4 ounces), minced

1 medium leek (about 10 ounces), trimmed, thinly sliced and washed

4 garlic cloves, minced or grated

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

2 pounds mussels, cleaned and debearded (see headnote)

¾ cup dry white wine, such as sauvignon blanc (see notes)

¼ cup water or vegetable stock

Juice of 1 large lemon (about ¼ cup)

Fresh parsley leaves, for serving (optional)

Warm crusty bread, for serving (optional)

Set a programmable multicooker (such as an Instant Pot; see notes) to saute. Let the pot heat for 2 minutes and then add the oil and heat until shimmering. Add the shallot and leek and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the garlic and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the mussels and pour the wine, water or stock and lemon juice over. Cover the appliance with a lid and make sure the steam valve is sealed. Select pressure (high) and set the cook time to 0 minutes.

It should take 8 to 10 minutes for the appliance to come to pressure. Once it reaches pressure, immediately release it manually by moving the pressure-release handle to “venting,” covering your hand with a towel and making sure to keep your hand and face away from the vent when the steam releases.

Discard any mussels that have not opened. Transfer the mussels to individual serving bowls, and pour or ladle some of the sauce from the pot, sprinkle with the parsley, if using, and drizzle with extra oil, if desired. Serve with warm bread for dipping, if desired.

Yield: 2 servings

Storage: Refrigerate for up to 1 day.

Notes: This recipe was tested using a 3-quart Instant Pot; the amount of liquid is enough to work in a 6-quart model, as well. For an 8-quart pot, you’ll need at least 2 cups of liquid.

If you prefer not to use wine, increase the stock to 1 cup.

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