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Pine Bough-Roasted Mussels

Katie Stoops

Servings: 4

This preparation has roots in a French seaside tradition of a large cookout similar to a New England clambake. Pine is usually avoided in barbecue circles, as the resinous smoke can be overpowering and bitter. But given the quick cooking time of mussels, this highly aromatic and dense smoke is a perfect touch. Here the mussels are served with tarragon aioli, as the cool flavor of tarragon softens the pitch flavor of pine. But any way you present this, it is an impressive undertaking and one that is sure to have all your guests gathered around the grill to watch.

This recipe is excerpted from Where There’s Smoke: Simple, Sustainable, Delicious Grilling. Read our review.


  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 Tbs. white wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, grated on a Microplane or very finely minced
  • Leaves from 8 sprigs fresh tarragon, chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 cups canola oil
  • 4 to 6 pine boughs, enough to cover the grill surface
  • 4 lb. mussels, thoroughly scrubbed and debearded (discard any that won’t close)


  • Mix the egg yolk, vinegar, garlic, tarragon, and a pinch of salt in a medium bowl. Whisk to combine, then begin to add the canola oil in a slow, steady stream. Continue whisking as you add the oil and, remember, patience is the key. The sauce will thicken as you add the oil until it is a smooth mayonnaise; if it gets too thick, add a couple of drops of water to thin it out. Cover tightly and refrigerate until ready to serve or up to 2 days (any longer than that, and the garlic flavor gets too strong).
  • Place the pine boughs over a medium charcoal grill fire in which the coals have been spread out around the base grate. As soon as the pine begins to sizzle and release wisps of steam and smoke, scatter the mussels over the boughs and cover the grill. The pine will smolder and smoke, perfuming the mussels as they pop open. Uncover the grill and check them after 7 minutes. Remove the mussels that have opened, which should be most of them. Continue to cook those that haven’t opened for another 5 minutes or so. Discard any that insist on remaining closed.
  • Place one of the charred pine boughs on a platter and pile the mussels around it. Provide toothpicks and serve them with a bowl of the aioli.


Reprinted with permission from Where There’s Smoke © 2013 by Barton Seaver, Sterling Epicure, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.


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