Moules à la Marinière is a classic French meal made with mussels cooked in white wine, butter and cream. You eat it with warm French bread. Yes, it is every bit as glorious as it sounds.
Our second course was mussels: Moules à la Marinière.. I adapted a recipe from the Balthazar Cookbook. I love this recipe because it has lots of good healthy saturated fats: a whole stick (8 ounces) of butter, plus 1/2 cup of creme fraiche (cultured cream).
The recipe also calls for 5 pounds of mussels (you could probably get away with 4 pounds). It will feed 2 very hungry people or 4 moderately hungry people. If you serve this with fries and crusty bread, and a salad or soup, you could easily feed a family of 4-6. (We didn’t have fries or a salad; we just ate mussels and bread).
Moules à la Marinière
Mussels (5 pounds)
Grass-fed butter, I used KerryGold — the butter does not need to be raw, since it will be boiled in this recipe (8 ounces)
White wine (2 cups) — I used this wonderful organic chenin blanc from Trader Joe’s — only $5.99/bottle and made from organic grapes
Creme fraiche (1/2 cup) — I did not have any creme fraiche so I used homemade yogurt cheese; you could also use cream — this is going to be boiled so you don’t need to use raw cream
Freshly ground white pepper (4 tsp) — this is a good staple to have in your kitchen; you also need it for making chicken liver pate
Garlic, peeled and chopped (1 head)
Celery stalks (4)
Thyme (8 sprigs) — I have this in my garden
One big handful of parsley
(The original recipe called for shallots but I never seem to have shallots on hand; I think the recipe is delicious without them, but if you want to add them, you need 10 shallots)
Crusty bread (I used French Meadow sourdough bread, toasted)
I like to get everything ready ahead of time and set it all out “mise en place”. The only thing you can’t do ahead is the mussels. It’s best to keep them in the fridge covered with ice in a plastic bag until you are ready to serve. (Same with the oysters. What I did was do the oyster course first, then got up to prepare the second course.)
1. Keep your mussels in the fridge on ice while you so all your chopping/preparing of ingredients.
2. When you have everything ready to go and you’re all set to eat, set a large stock pot on low heat and melt the butter.
3. Add the celery (sliced on the bias), garlic, and thyme and sautee for 15 minutes.
4. While that’s happening, take the mussels out of the fridge and rinse them in a colander. With your hands, remove the “beard” — the little hairy bit — from each mussel. It’s near the hinge. Pull hard. (Do NOT do this step ahead. After you do this, the mussels die and go bad, so it’s important to do this just before cooking.)
5. The vegetables should be soft, but not brown. Add the wine, creme fraiche (or yogurt cheese or cream), and turn the stove up to high. It should come to a boil pretty quickly.
6. Stick your bread in the toaster oven or in the broiler.
7. When your broth is boiling, add the mussels and cook for 3 minutes, or until all the mussels open. As they open, remove them one by one with tongs and set them in large serving bowls. Discard any mussels that do not open.
8. Add the chopped parsley to the broth, stir gently, then pour the broth over the mussels. Serve with crusty bread for dipping.
Seth said this meal was outstanding. I have to agree. The best mussels I have ever eaten. Ever! If you served this dish at a dinner party with real French fries and Belgian ale or a crisp white wine, people would think they died and went to heaven.