September 9, 2012

Mussels Steamed in White Wine

I went back and forth on what to call this dish. Mussels steamed in white wine. Or white wine steamed mussels.

On the one hand, I do love the chewy, briny mussels. But when it comes down to it, this dish is really just a vehicle for the white wine sauce (preferably delivered to my mouth by a sopping hunk of warm, crusty French bread). I finally gave the mussels star billing, figuring that they are, after all, the main ingredient.

But don’t let the mussels distract you from the sauce. It starts with shallots and plenty of garlic. To that, you add some thyme and white wine. Even if you stopped there, you’d have a 4-star dish. But it doesn’t stop there. Not by a long shot.

Because when you steam the mussels, they open up wide, releasing their salty, briny, fragrant juices into the sauce, making it taste purely of the ocean. You end up with a 5-star dish that takes little effort and even less time.

If you’ve never cooked mussels before, it might seem intimidating. But there are only a few key things to remember. First, you have to clean them. To do this, you place them, one at a time, into a large bowl filled with water and a few tablespoons of flour or cornmeal. The flour/cornmeal encourages the mussels spit out any sand they may have in their shells. As you place the mussels in the bowl, check to see that they’re closed. If they’re open, give them a tap on the counter. Toss any that don’t close.

Then drain, rinse and scrub them. If they have a beard, simply pull it out with your fingers.

Finally, once they're cooked, give the pot a once over and discard any that are still closed.

Once you try cooking mussels at home, you'll make them over and over again. Whether you want to impress your friends or transport yourself to Paris, these mussels will do the trick.

Store your mussels on ice until you're ready to use them.

Soak them in a bowl filled with water and flour for about 30 minutes. This will give them a chance to disgorge any sand they've got trapped in their shell.

Drain and rinse the mussels.

If any of them have a beard, simply pull it out with your fingers.Also, if any of them don't completely close, toss them.

Now start cooking. Sauté shallots in olive oil and butter.

Add the garlic. Sauté until the shallots start to color and you can really smell the garlic.

Add the thyme, wine, salt and pepper and let it come to a boil.

Add the mussels. Give them a little toss, then cover them. Don't peek.

After about 10 minutes, you'll have beautifully cooked, intensely flavored mussels and sauce.

Serve them straight out of the pot, with plenty of good French bread for dipping!

Mussels Steamed in White Wine

Recipe adapted from Ina Garten

3 lbs cultivated mussels
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped shallots (5 to 7 shallots)
1 1/2 Tbso minced garlic (5 to 6 cloves)
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1 cup good white wine
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1.    Clean the mussels: Put them in a large bowl with 2 quarts of water and the flour and soak for 30 minutes to let the mussels disgorge any sand. Drain the mussels, then remove the "beard" from each with your fingers. If they're dirty, scrub the mussels with a brush under running water. Discard any mussels whose shells aren't tightly shut.

2.    In a large non-aluminum stockpot, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook for 5 minutes. Then add the garlic and cook for 3 more minutes, or until the shallots are translucent. Add the thyme, wine, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil.

3.    Add the mussels, stir well, then cover the pot, and cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until all the mussels are opened (discard any that do not open). With the lid on, shake the pot once or twice to be sure the mussels don't burn on the bottom.

4.    Pour the mussels and the sauce into a large bowl and serve hot with a  warm baguette to soak up the juices.

Serves 2 to 3


  1. how do these compare to the ones at Zin's.

    1. I don't have a good enough memory to compare! Is Zins still open? Did you make it there on this trip?

    2. Web site says it is still open, but we didn't try and eat there. I guess there were more interesting things to do this trip - like gelato with you and your husband. We loved the mussels at Zins though.


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