The Great Shellfish Cookbook Review + Game Day Fried Mussels Recipe

I think many people shy away from shellfish because they are nervous about cooking it at home, seeing it as a luxury item, or something relegated to summer boil ups on the coast. But The Great Shellfish Cookbook by Matt Dean Petit puts all those worries to rest by outlining all the things you need to know about cooking shellfish. I was delighted when this cookbook showed up in my mailbox, and even though it’s the end of summer, it’s certainly not the end of shellfish season  — in fact oysters don’t have a season, and lobster is harvested year round on the East Coast. Here’s what I thought of it.

Note: I was provided a review copy of The Great Shellfish Cookbook from Penguin Random House Canada

Great Shellfish Cookbook Cover.The Food Girl in Town

What’s inside The Great Shellfish Cookbook

The cookbook is organized according to type of shellfish: clams, crabs, exotic shellfish (like uni and conch), lobster, mussels, octopus and suqid, oysters, scallops, shrimp and prawns. There is also a section at the beginning of the book offering a crash course in Shellfish 101 and all the tools you will need, along with several sections about sides, cocktails and sauces near the back of the book.

Any type of dish you can think of that has a shellfish iteration in this cookbook — think General Tso Mussels, Quahog Clam Mac & Cheese, and Buffalo Shrimp & Cauliflower Poutine. This cookbook pushes the boundaries for what typical shellfish dishes can be and expands the palate across the world. Dishes from Asia, Europe and North America fill the pages and classic staples are also found within, showcasing Moules Frites, Clam Chowder, Scallop Ceviche and a whole lot more. The photography is bright and colourful, giving a raw and mouth-watering preview of what you’re cooking up.

One of my favourite parts about this cookbook is the addition of fun facts peppered through the Shellfish 101 section (this girl loves her trivia): Did you know blue crab is the most commonly consumed crab in the world? Yea, me neither!

The test subjects

Many people associate mussels and other shellfish with the summer months, but mussels are actually best consumed during the months with a ‘R’, meaning September through April. They are a great addition to lots of recipes, and I loved the idea of the Mussels and Mushrooms on Toast (p. 105)! It’s a great fall recipe and with chanterelle season in overdrive here in Newfoundland, I know it would be a winner. I tried several recipes throughout the cookbook, but the day we got several pounds of mussels from the local seafood shop was the day we got real about shellfish and ate a bunch of mussels dishes including Game Day Fried Mussels (p. 99), Melted Cheesy Mussels (p. 100), and Matty’s Seafood Cocktail Sauce (p. 225).

Game Day Fried Mussels

Forget those lame frozen chicken wings, the next time you have people over to watch the game fry up some of these bad boys. The Game Day Fried Mussels (p.99) are simple to make but bursting with deep-fried goodness and a totally unique addition to any party you might have, regardless if you like football or not. I’ve included the recipe at the bottom of this post!

Great Shellfish Cookbook Game Day Closeup 2.The Food Girl in TownGreat Shellfish Cookbook Game Day Vertical.The Food Girl in Town

Melted Cheesy Mussels

Not everyone is a fan of seafood and cheese, but it’s always a winner in my books. Matt classified these Melted Cheesy Mussels (p.100) as a brunch recipe and I love this idea! The mussels take no time at all to prepare and look really impressive on the brunch table along with those lame bacon and eggs. The trio of shredded Manchego cheese, sour cream and heavy cream combine to make a sauce similar to a toasty Béchamel and the hit of red chili flakes adds a real punch to these otherwise ambivalently-tasting crustaceans.

Great Shellfish Cookbook cheese mussels closeup.The Food Girl in TownGreat Shellfish Cookbook Cover Photo.The Food Girl in Town

Who should buy this cookbook?

The Great Shellfish Cookbook is suitable for any type of cook. Whether you know that mussels are alive when you buy them, or you didn’t even know that periwinkles were shellfish, you can cook from this cookbook. The straightforward, lighthearted nature of this book makes for great gatherings when you’ve got a crowd over to cook, or you’re trying to impress your significant other. As someone who lives on the East Coast, it will be a great addition to my cookbook shelf and I already know I’ll be referencing it regularly (I can literally hear Adam smacking his lips as I type this).

So, get shucked up with The Great Shellfish Cookbook, but in the meantime here’s a recipe for the Game Day Mussels I whipped up.

Game Day Fried Mussels

Blue24, Blue24, hut hut hut! I am a huge sports fan, and football is certainly one of my favorites. There’s nothing better than watching the Big Game and eating these treats. So, skip the nachos next weekend and try these instead. I promise you won’t be disappointed. This recipe doubles easily for a big gathering. Let’s go, Buffalo! 

Course Appetizer, Snack
Cuisine Comfort Food
Author Matt Dean Pettit


  • 2 lb 900g live mussels
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 cups 750mL Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup 250mL Canola oil
  • 1/2 cup 125mL flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
  • 2 medium lemons quartered
  • Matty’s Seafood Cocktail Sauce for dipping (page 225)
  • Tartar sauce for dipping


  1. Clean the mussels under cold, running water. Remove any hair connected to the mussels and discard any mussels that are completely or even slightly open. 

  2. Fill a large stock pot with 81/2 quarts (8L) of cold water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Cook the mussels for approximately 1 minute, just to open the shells for now — you’ll continue to cook the meat later. Discard any mussels that don’t open. Once the mussels have cooled, grip the top shell in one hand and the bottom shell in the other hand, and give a small pull to detach the shells. Using your fingers or a small fork, remove the meat from the shell and place it in a smallbowl. Repeat with the remaining mussels. 

  3. Prepare a dredging station by beating the eggs in a shallow, medium-size bowl and placing the breadcrumbs in a separate shallow bowl. Dredge all the mussel meat pieces in the beaten egg and then in the breadcrumbs. Shake off any excess breadcrumbs, place the mussel meats on a baking tray, and set aside at room temperature.

  4. In a medium-size saucepan, over medium-high heat, heat the canola oil to 375°F (190°C), checking with a cooking thermometer. Line a plate with paper towels.

  5. Fry the mussel meat pieces for 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden brown. You may have to do this in batches, and allow the oil to come back up to temperature in between batches. Transfer the fried mussels to the prepared plate to absorb any excess oil. 

  6. Place the fried mussels on a large serving platter and garnish with the parsley and lemon quarters. Dunk the fried mussels into Matty’s Seafood Cocktail Sauce or tartar sauce. Yum!

Excerpted from The Great Shellfish Cookbook: From Sea to Table More than 100 Recipes to Cook at Home by Matt Dean Pettit. Copyright © 2018 Matt Dean Pettit. Photography copyright © 2018 Ksenija Hotic. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

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