Steamed Mussels in Butter from Outlander book Dragonfly in Amber

Steamed Mussels with Butter - Recipe Redux

I sat on a chest against the taffrail, enjoying the salty breeze and the tarry, fishy smells of ships and harbor.  It was still cold, but with my cloak pulled tight around me, I was warm enough.  The ship rocked slowly, rising on the incoming tide; I could see the beards of algae on nearby dock pilings lifting and swirling, obscuring the shiny black patches of mussels between them.

The thought of mussels reminded me of the steamed mussels with butter I had had for dinner the night before, and I was suddenly starving.  The absurd contrasts of pregnancy seemed to keep me always conscious of my digestion; if I wasn't vomiting, I was ravenously hungry.  The thought of food led me to the thought of menus, which led back to a contemplation of the entertaining Jared had mentioned.  Dinner parties, hm?  It seemed as odd way to begin the job of saving Scotland, but then I couldn't really think of anything better.

Dragonfly in Amber, chapter 6, "Making Waves"

steamed mussels with butter Valentine's Day Round Up

I worked under 3 French chefs during my time in professional kitchens.  This recipe belongs to the first.

Chef P. was my culinary skills instructor. The crusty son of a Parisian bakery owner who went on to cook in some of Europe's greatest restaurants, he was never short of a story -- once the work was done and every last pot lid was put away -- he would often regale us with a tale from the kitchens of old.  My favourites were from his childhood, in his father's bakeries, where he learned from master bakers who started everyday outside the back door, cigarettes in hand, feeling the early morning air before returning inside to mix the day’s doughs according to their temperature and humidity readings.

Those early lessons influenced Chef P. -- he was all about using your instincts in the kitchen.  Ask him how long to cook something, and he would invariably shake his head in exasperation, growl "Until it's done!" then peer quizzically at you, as though the knives in your proverbial drawer were a little dull, before turning to answer the next "silly" question.

(I did say he was crusty.)

steamed mussels with butter

The secret to Chef P's mussels with butter is what he put in his butter.

Compound butter, or beurre composé, is a mixture of softened butter and flavourings used in sauces, or atop vegetables, meats and seafood.

This is a slightly simplified version of Chef P's original mussel butter, which we made in 10lb batches with a few extra ingredients that aren't common in the average home-kitchen pantry.  My version is a little easier to put together and still packed with flavour.

Besides, I couldn't, in good conscience, give away another chef's secrets.  At least not all of them.

steamed mussels with butter

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14 May 2012 - 9:01am


YUM!!! My dad was just telling me yesterday how he was going to go get some mussles from the beach himself. How I miss catching my own seafood. Thanks for making my mouth water and bringing back memories.


Hopefully you`ll make it to the beach with your dad soon, JustHeather! Theresa

14 May 2012 - 1:45pm

The Mom Chef

The French do have very eloquent ways of letting you know that your questions are absurd, don't they. :) I love my oysters raw but my clams and mussels cooked. This recipe looks fantastic. I'd love to see the chef's secret copy (it's just a wish, not badgering or begging) because, well, just because, but this looks amazing too.


I`ll drop Chef P a line and see what he says, Christiane...

14 May 2012 - 2:36pm

Kiri W.

Ooooh, this looks to die for! What a glorious little appetizer. :)


They are the perfect finger food, Kiri, you`re so right! Theresa

14 May 2012 - 6:05pm


This looks amazing and, I imagine, tastes even better. I miss being able to get fresh mussels and other seafood. I have cooked a similar dish to this, using fresh oysters in the shell. After washing them, grill them over indirect heat until they pop open, then melt a dollop of butter in each shell and add lemon juice, salt, pepper and minced parsley to taste. Wonderful, and just stand around the grill to eat.

14 May 2012 - 6:17pm


Hi Theresa,nYou know I love your blog and your recipies but not even you can persuade me to try mussels :-). nI'm going to make the butter though and top some thick fish fillets with it before baking .n:-)


I'm sad I can't persuade you, Lesley! But this butter will be fantastic on fish! I would top the cooked fish with a spoonful of soft butter just before serving.

14 May 2012 - 8:33pm


Haha, I love your crusty chef. This dish sounds absolutely ah-ma-zing, I love it. I haven't made mussels at home (how dumb is that?) but this is very inspiring.


These are right up your alley, Trix...I`d love to see your twist on them!

14 May 2012 - 11:04pm


Looks delicious, as usual!!! your recipes always make me feel brave...i think i'll be trying these! can't wait to share the cookbook with my friends and family! hope to find it a bookstore soon!!!! :-)


You can make anything in the kitchen you set your mind to! Including an Outlander Cookbook...

06 Dec 2012 - 7:03am

Gougres Chee…

instructor, and the first person I ever addressed as Chef!, a man we know here in Outlander Kitchen as Chef

23 Sep 2014 - 1:22pm


Since I don't live anywhere near the ocean (or a decent fresh seafood market), I was wondering if I might use frozen mussels for this?

21 Mar 2016 - 6:01pm


Can't wait to try this...I LOVE seafood but rarely does the budget allow for it. Makes it all the tastier!


Enjoy! Mussels are one of the more affordable seafood choices, so really go for it!

21 Mar 2016 - 6:25pm

Mary Guidry

I always order mussels when on the menu, but have never made them at home. I just may have to try this ... I'm pretty sure I have the skills for it. LOL. But I LOVE any sort of seafood, so I'm sure these will be as good as they sound! Thanks, so much, Theresa!!

22 Mar 2016 - 1:55am

Pamela Green

I often make steamed mussels, this will be a new favorite! Trix, regular old steamed mussels are one of the fastest/easiest dinners. Look online for recipes. You clean the mussels, melt some butter in a deep pan, saute garlic or shallots for a couple minutes, add the mussels, white wine and parsley, put a lid on it, turn up the heat... 5 minutes later dinner's done!

28 Mar 2016 - 4:05pm


Hi Theresa, This recipe looks incredibly yummy and I think I will make an extra batch of the butter to have on-hand. Thank you for sharing! You told Thoracias frozen mussels would be ok (I just moved from a coastal state myself). I've never bought frozen mussels before. How do we tell if they are good once defrosted? Will open shells close if you tap them or do you automatically throw them out?


Adina, I've never actually used frozen mussels, so I googled to find you the best info. Scroll down to just past halfway down the page, and you'll find info about frozen mussels. Theresa

04 Apr 2016 - 9:01pm

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Outlander Kitchens recipe for Steamed Mussels in Butter.

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