This recipe is super simple and inspired by my childhood visits to my Grandparents, Mame and Pape, in Le Harve, France. We would go to the once rough waterfront which was previously full of sailors and soldiers filled bars when the port was at it peak. Post war the shores have been transformed into many cafes and family run old style bars. My favorites were the ones with large vats of Mussels. ”Moule” is mussels in French. Unlimited, huge bowls of steaming moule with baskets of crusty bread could be bought very cheaply. It became my favorite meal next to the bouillabaisse I later discovered. Moule is a very hands on dish. A kids dream as you grab a shell and just start eating. It felt like one could eat a hundred mussels in a sitting with it’s intoxicate aroma of wine and onions and fresh shellfish. The sauce from the mussels was impossible to resist sopping up with the flavorful bread and using the mussel shells as soup spoon scoops to get every last drop of the seafood gravy. To this day its hard for me to resist not buying a bag of mussels in the seafood section every-time I see one.
Its a great value to serve mussels. A very inexpensive super quick and easy to prepare appetizer or meal. All you need is a large pot, ideally a heavy dutch oven type, since it makes the nicest mussel sauce. Clay pots are perfect for the way they hold the moisture of your ingredients. I like making my mussels in my fish clay pot… the theme is fun and I can take it decoratively directly to the table. You can make many different kinds of sauces. tomato, Thai influenced, spicy… be creative… Here is the one that reminds me of my childhood, easy to build upon and tickles my taste buds when I see mussels for sale.
Classic white wine and shallots Mussels
1 bag of mussels
4 big shallots chopped
2 cloves of garlic
1 stick of butter (you don’t have to use this much… but it tastes so good)
2 Cups of Wine or keep adding as much as you like.
1/2 Cup of Water… or more to fill the bottom of your pot with the wine about 1.5 inches.
1 t of salt
1 t of pepper
1 Cup of parsley
Fresh Sprigs of lemon thyme or lemon verbena (optional)
Juice of one lemon… extra for serving if you like.
A loaf of crusty bread.
Clean your mussels. Most mussels I buy at the seafood counter seem very clean, just make sure the straw like beards are removed. Put the clean mussels aside for a later step.
On the stove saute the shallots and garlic in with the butter, until wilted in the pot you are going to cook your mussels. You can substitute some olive oil or use less butter or even a pan spray depending on your dietary preferences. Each choice will offer you a different flavor but will be good.
Add the water and wine, half the parsley (and hearbs), salt, pepper, lemon, to the big pot and bring to a very hot steamy boil.
Pre heat your oven for the bread. And right before you put the mussels in start heating your bread. While the mussels cook remove and slice or leave the loaf whole for tearing crispy chunks of bread.
Put the mussels in and quickly and tightly cover the pot. Steam for 8-10 min. Do not over cook. The mussel shells should open and your sauce will have reduced a little. Discard any shells that are unopened. Throw the rest of the parsley on top and take to the table in your cooking pot if appropriate or one big serving bowl.
If you would like a thicker sauce. After 8 min remove the opened cooked mussels, keeping covered to not dry out too much, turn up the heat on the broth, reduce to the your desired consistence, add a couple tablespoons of cream and pour over the mussels and serve.
Serve immediately and ladle the mussels into soup size bowls so the sauce can gather in the bottom and easily be absorbed up by the accompanying bread.
Enjoy and be creative.