Last night I made one of my favorite meals: mussels steamed in white wine. This is literally one of the easiest meals to make and it is also sustainable and not too expensive (but it feels special). Here’s how I do it:
- one net bag of mussels (about 2 lbs, usually)
- a knob of butter (maybe 1 1/2 tablespoons?)
- one medium-sized shallot, finely chopped
- 5-6 strands of fresh thyme
- one (fresh if possible) bay leaf
- two cups of nice white wine (don’t be tempted to cook with wine you wouldn’t drink)
- 1/3 cup cream or half and half
- fresh pepper
Steps to Joy:
- Clean the mussels carefully by rinsing them in very cold water and pulling off any ‘beards’ (the junk hanging off where the shells come together). I don’t scrub the shells themselves as it discolors the liquid when you cook them (I learned this from reading a Raymond Blanc recipe). If you have particularly gritty ones, you can dump all the mussels into a big bowl with a tablespoon of flour and lots of cold water and leave them for about 30 minutes before rinsing them carefully. The flour will be drawn in by the live mussels and will pick up the silt before being spit out by the little creatures.
- Drop the butter into a big saucepan (enough for those mussels to fit into) that has a lid. Melt the butter over high heat and add the shallots and the herbs. Saute for a minute or two (don’t let the butter burn).
- Dump the rinsed mussels in. Be careful not to add any of the water that you used to clean them. I usually put the mussels on a cloth towel and pat them to ensure that they are somewhat dry before I put them in the pan.
- Dump in the wine and let it steam off for about 30 seconds and then cover the pan. Steam for about 3 minutes with the pan covered. I shake the pan now and then to ensure everyone gets some of the spices.
- Lift the lid off the pan and check the mussels. They should all be open. If they are (or if most of them are) they’re done. Remove from the heat and dump in the cream and add some fresh ground pepper.
- Discard any mussels that didn’t open (those were dead when you got them and are therefore not edible).
- Eat with a piece of garlic bread and a glass of nice wine. I make my garlic bread by rubbing a half a clove of garlic across the bread and then adding some butter, salt and pepper (I always use unsalted butter). I then toast it under the broiler in the oven.
This is what mine looked like last night (I didn’t have a bay leaf handy, fyi, and it made a difference… don’t bother if you don’t have one).