My friend Guy (that’s pronounced “Gee” with a hard “g”) grew up in Southern France, in Provence, near the sea. And like so many people from Provence, Guy has a passion for all things seafood, especially mussels, or as the French call them, “moules”. Mussels steamed in white wine and served in a sauce made from the cooking liquid with butter and shallots is a classic French preparation of mussels, moules mariniere. This is Guy’s method for moules mariniere, the way he grew up making it in France, and one of the easiest and loveliest ways of preparing mussels. It is wonderful for an appetizer or a light lunch, and excellent with a glass of white wine and some crusty bread.
When purchasing mussels be sure they smell like the ocean, not fishy. Don't buy any whose shells are cracked or open or any that refuse to close their shells when you handle or tap them, those are likely dying or dead. Try to cook the mussels immediately (unwrap them as soon as you get home), but if you have to wait place them in a bowl and cover them with a damp towel so they can breathe.
- 2 pounds mussels, scrubbed clean under running water
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1/4 cup minced shallots
- 1 Tbsp minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons flour (optional, omit for gluten-free version)
- 1/4 cup minced parsley
1 Put the mussels in a bowl of salted water (1 Tbsp salt per quart of water) for 10-15 minutes. Throw out any that are wide open or refuse to close when you handle them as these ones are likely dead. Looking over the closed mussels, see if any still have their beards (long hairy byssal threads which help anchor the mussel to surfaces) and pull them out, pulling slowly and strongly towards the hinge of the shell.
2 Put 1/2 cup of dry white wine in the bottom of a large pot (at least 4-quart). Add the mussels to the pot. Cover and bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to low. As the mussels cook, they will release their highly flavored water into the pot. Cook until shells have opened, and the mussels are just cooked, looking steamed and soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Take care not to overcook, or the mussels will be rubbery and hard. Once the mussels are cooked, carefully remove them from the pot to a bowl, one-by-one using tongs, including those that have broken loose from their shells. Do not discard the water in the pot!
3 Let the water in the pot settle for a minute. Any grit will settle to the bottom. Gently pour out the cooking water into a measuring cup, leaving the grit in the pot to discard of later. If the water you've measured out is still a little gritty, filter out the grit using a sieve.
4 Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan. Add the shallots and cook a couple minutes until translucent. Add the garlic and cook a minute more. If you want your sauce to be a little thick, add a teaspoon or two of flour to the pan, stir to combine. (Otherwise skip the flour.) Slowly add about a cup of the filtered mussel cooking water to the saucepan, stirring to create a smooth sauce. Add the minced parsley to the sauce.
5 Place mussels in serving bowls. Pour some sauce over each bowl of mussels.
Serve immediately. Serve with crusty bread for dipping in the sauce.