I recently bought a copy of Chef Michael Smith’s new book, Fast Flavours, and have made several recipes from it already, including Bacon Beer Mussels. This interesting take on steamed mussels produces a richly flavoured broth that begs to be sopped up with crusty bread. Chef Smith suggests a method for crisping bacon that I had never tried before—covering it with water, which helps render the fat. As the water evaporates, the bacon crisps. It really does work! The recipe calls for a dark beer, but I used what we had on hand. This is a great weeknight supper or casual dinner party recipe, and would go well with a green salad and bread.

Avoiding additives and preservatives

Bacon, beer, hot sauce and bread can contain additives and preservatives. Use nitrite-free bacon and a microbrewery beer with all-natural ingredients (such as Sleeman, Creemore or Mill Street Organic). I used Tabasco original hot sauce and an Ace Bakery baguette.

Cover the bacon with water and simmer until bacon is crisp.

See how crisp the bacon gets!


4 to 6 slices of bacon, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

5 pounds (2.25 kg) of fresh, fresh mussels, scrubbed and debearded

1 teaspoon (5 ml) of hot sauce

1 bottle of dark beer

4 green onions, chopped

1 baguette or fresh bread for dipping


Place a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the bacon, then pour in enough water to just barely cover it. Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon. As the water simmers, the bacon will begin to cook. Then, as the water evaporates, the bacon will render, releasing its fat. Lastly, it will crisp as the fat left behind heats past the boiling point of water. Be patient and keep stirring until every piece is evenly crisped, about 5 or 6 minutes.

When the bacon is crisp, add the onions. Stir for a few minutes as they cool the pan, softening and dissolving the flavourful crust, 2 or 3 minutes. Add the mussels, then the hot sauce and beer. Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid. Lower the heat a bit and steam the works, cooking and flavouring the mussels and their broth with brown bacon and brown beer. Continue cooking until a rich, fragrant broth forms and all the mussel shells pop open, about 10 minutes.

Divide the mussels among bowls (discarding any mussels that didn’t open), then pour in the remaining broth. Sprinkle on the green onions, serve, and share with lots of bread to soak up the delicious broth. Serves 4 to 6.

From Fast Flavours, by Chef Michael Smith