Thursday, March 3, 2011

First Time Cooking Mussels

I love mussels! When I went to France last fall, I was a woman on a mission!  I wanted moules-frites.  There are restaurants in DC that serve them, and they're great.  But, there is nothing quite like eating my weight in moules at a cafe in Paris.  Unfortunately, Dave doesn't share my enthusiasm for the marvelous mollusk.  But, he isn't here!  I'd never cooked mussels before.  A lot of the recipes in my cookbooks called for tons of liquid and a steaming basket.  I've got a small steamer, but it only works if there's an inch or less of liquid.  So, those recipes were out of the question.  I decided to go with the most simple recipe I could find. I whipped out my Larousse and read the entry on mussels.  Not only did it have important information about How Not to Cook Mussels That are Already Dead, it had some simple recipes that didn't call for a steamer basket.

I made moules à la marinière!  It had relatively few ingredients and didn't take long to cook. 

I bought 8 oz of mussels even though a single serving is 6 oz, because I know I can eat a lot of them.  They were in a mesh bag, and the woman who was helping me put them in a plastic bag.  She warned me not to seal the bag, or the mussels would die.  That was very helpful because my first instinct was to tie the bag shut.

When I got home, I took the mesh bag out of the plastic bag and put the mussels in the fridge.  I prepped my shallots, parsley, and made my salad.  In that time, all the mussels opened!  I thought that they were only supposed to open when they were cooked.  So I thought that I had killed them all.  Thankfully, google told me otherwise.  Some mussels open a bit in the fridge, especially if it isn't very humid.  To check if they were still alive, I tapped the shells and all but three of them closed again.  I didn't eat the ones that didn't close.  I cleaned them by scraping the outside with my dish brush (classy!) and removing the "beard" (the stringy bit that hung outside of some of their shells). 

Despite my initial concern about killing the mussels or not cooking them properly and making myself sick, this dish was shockingly easy to make.  It only took about 3 minutes for the mussels to cook!  The most labor intensive part of this recipe was cleaning the mussels.  I highly recommend this simple dish for first time mussel cookers.

Moules à la marinière
from Larousse Gastronomique
Serves 1 with extra liquid

8 oz mussels
1 small shallot, chopped
1 Tbsp chopped parsley
small sprig of thyme (or a few dashes of dried, which is what I used because I didn't have any sprigs)
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup dry white wine
1.5 tsp white wine vinegar
3 Tbsp butter, divided 

1) Melt 1 Tbsp of butter using moderate heat in a large pan (make sure it has a lid that fits!).  Add the shallots and cook for about 5 minutes. 
2) Add parsley, thyme, bay leaf, wine, and vinegar.  Bring to a boil.  Let it boil for 5 minutes.
3) Add mussels and cover the pan.  Cook for 3-4 minutes or until all the mussels have opened.  If some won't open after 6 minutes or so, they're probably bad and you should chuck them.
4) Place mussels in a bowl and add the remaining 2 Tbsp butter to the sauce and stir it as it melts into the liquid. (If you don't want to use that much butter to thicken the sauce, I think 1 Tbsp would be fine, or even no butter if you don't mind a more watery sauce).
5) Pour some of the cooking liquid over the mussels and serve.

1 comment:

Michelle said...


I've been avoiding mussles because I suspect I'm developing a sensitivity to shellfish. And pregnancy and whatnot. But I soooo love them. Soon, I will eat mussles again. Sooooon.


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