The Ultimate Mussels in White Wine 


Every French Bistro I’ve had the pleasure to dine in has it’s own version of Moules Marinieres.  My favorite traditional country version was the clear choice when I invited a dear friend over for lunch on our terrace the other day.

Mostly because it is easy to make, with most of the prep work done in advance with the help of a food processor, involves one pot for cooking and clean up and is simply delicious.

The sauce is hot, rich and wildly flavorable, which is perfect for mopping up with hunks of crispy bread.  For dinner, I like to ladle the mussels and sauce over a pound of cooked linguine.

To make enough for 6 people, the number I usually cook for, you will need:

6 1/2 pounds of cultivated mussels

2/3-cup all-purpose flour

1-teaspoon good saffron threads

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons good olive oil

2 cups chopped shallots (10 to 15 shallots)

1/3 cup minced garlic (12 to 15 cloves)

1 cup chopped canned plum tomatoes, drained (8 ounces)

¾ cup chopped flat-leave parsley

¼ cup fresh thyme leaves

2 cups good white wine (I use a buttery white wine such as a California Chardonnay)

4 teaspoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper.

To clean the mussels, throw them in a large bowl with 4 quarts of water and the flour and let them soak for 30 minutes of until the mussels release any sand.

Drain them and remove the “beard” from each with your fingers.  With the help of a brush, scrub the mussels under running water.  Chuck out any mussels whose shells are not tightly shut.

In a ¼ cup of hot water, soak the saffron for 15 minutes.

In a large (12 quart) nonaluminum pot, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat.  Add the shallots and allow them to cook for 5 minutes, followed by garlic for an additional 3 minutes.  Add the saffron along with the soaking water, the tomatoes, thyme, parsley, wine, salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil, at which time you add the mussels.  Stir it around well and then cover with a lid and cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until almost all the mussels are opened.  Be sure to throw out any mussel that do not open.

With the lid on, shake the pot to make sure that the mussels don’t burn on the bottom.  Pour the mussels and the sauce into a large bowl and serve hot.

Tuck in and enjoy!

(Photographs by moi)


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