When I was in pastry school in the south of France, one of my favorite weekend activities was to stroll through the surrounding beach towns in search of the best bowl of moules frites (mussels + French fries).
I don’t know if it was the French fries, or the mandatory glass of lunchtime white wine, or the fresh, plump mussels straight from the crystal blue waters, or the round table barely big enough to hold two bowls, but I felt so French sitting by the Mediterranean enjoying my little meal.
Mussels are quite easy to cook, though a little trickier to prep. First, soak them to remove excess sand and grit. Then, remove the beard (a stringy membrane that the mussel uses to attach itself to rocks or other stable surfaces). Keep an eye out for mussels that are cracked or already open before cooking. Those should be discarded, unless, when you tap the open mussel on a counter top, it closes.
And if you want to feel extra French, eat your bowl of steamed mussels as the French do: Use a fork to pop out the first mussel, then use the empty shell to pinch out the rest. Stack the empty shells inside one another on the perimeter of your plate so you don’t have to hunt for the last morsel of mussel-y goodness. (Scroll to the very bottom, past the recipe, for a quick video tutorial!)
Watch the full recipe video here:
Food La La Recipe: Steamed Mussels + Garlic Bread
Serves: Two as main dish
- ½ baguette (2 slices per person)
- Salt, pepper
- 1 garlic clove, peeled
- 2 pounds mussels
- 1 TBS butter
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 large shallot, minced
- 2 lemons, one zested, one thinly sliced
- 1 cup dry white wine
- ¼ cup cream
- Sea salt, pepper
- Flat leaf parsley, to garnish
- Turn broiler on high.
- Slice baguette at a deep angle and brush liberally with olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and ground pepper and arrange on a parchment lined baking sheet.
- Broil for two minutes or until deep brown around edge—do not leave the broiler! Always keep an eye on it as anything under it can burn very quickly.
- Using one whole garlic clove, rub each piece of toast.
- Soak mussels in cold water for 30 minutes to remove sand and grit. Gently lift mussels out of water (WHY? #1) and into a strainer. Rinse well.
- Remove the beard: there will be a stringy membrane sticking out of most mussels. Yank it down toward the bottom of the mussel and discard. If it’s tough to remove, try a using a dry paper towel for a better grip.
- Discard any cracked shells.
- If you find shells that are already open, tap them on the counter. If they do not close, discard. (WHY? #2)
Prepare Broth + Cook Mussels:
- In a medium, heavy bottom pot, melt butter over medium heat and add shallots and garlic to soften. Do not let them brown.
- Add lemon zest, wine and pepper. Bring to a boil.
- Gently add mussels to pot and cover immediately. Cook for 1 minute, then shake the pot.
- Continue to cook, covered, for another two minutes and gently stir.
- Cook another 1-2 minutes or until the mussels are open.
- Transfer the mussels to a large bowl, leaving the broth in the pot.
- Add heavy cream to broth and simmer for a few minutes to thicken. Do not boil. Taste broth and season with salt and pepper.
- Separate mussels into two bowls. Pour broth over top.
- Garnish with round slice of lemon, sprig of parsley and two slices of garlic bread.
Psst! A few recipe notes:
WHY? #1: If you pour the water and mussels out, you’ll just pour all the grit back over them.
WHY? #2: If the mussel is already open, it’s dead. And we don’t know why it’s dead or how long it’s been that way.
Note: If any shells haven’t opened after cooking, discard.