WINNIPEG, MB - I was brought up enjoying the many different flavours of fish, and this mussels recipe was a real staple in my life back in the day. It brings back memories now. Like the Christmas function for work, when I faced a mussels dish for the first time. I was young, naïve, and full of anticipation when the boss took us to a nice restaurant for dinner. They had “Moulé Marinieres” on the menu. Not afraid of trying something different I ordered them.
The first shock came when a large bowl with a lid was placed in front of me. A second shock followed as I removed the lid! There inside the bowl were the Moulés, with a steaming hot aroma variously of garlic, wine and cream shooting upward. Watching a colleague pick up his two-pronged fork, break loose a mussel from its open-shelled mooring place and slip it onto a soup-filled spoon for his first mouthful of the delicacy, I steeled myself to smoothly follow suit. I think I succeeded. The fun with moulés is that after the first moulé the empty shell becomes your fork for picking the other mussels out of their shells and eating them. And boy the eating is pure heaven!
- 4 pounds of mussels in their shells
- 1 clove garlic (finely chopped)
- 2 shallots, finely chopped
- ¼ cup of butter
- A bouquet garni of parsley, thyme and bay leaves
- 1 cup dry white wine
- ½ cup of whipping cream
- ¼ cup coarsely chopped parsley
- 1 baguette, thickly sliced
- A pinch of coarse sea salt and pepper
It’s very important now to ensure that you thoroughly wash the mussels under plenty of cold, running water. Discard any open ones that won't close when lightly squeezed.
When cleaning, pull out the tough, fibrous beards protruding from between the tightly closed shells and then knock off any barnacles with a large knife. Give the mussels another quick rinse to remove any little pieces of shell that may be left behind.
Place a pot on the stove large enough for your mussels. Add the butter and turn the heat to medium. Once the butter has melted, add the garlic and shallots to soften, then pour in your bouquet garni.
Once softened, add the mussels and wine and turn up the heat. Then cover and steam the mussel shells open in their own juices for three to four minutes. Give the pan a good shake every now and then. You want all the flavours to be enveloped by the mussels.
Steam the mussels until all the shells have opened. Then remove the bouquet garni, add the cream and chopped parsley and remove from the heat to prevent the cream from curdling. Spoon into large warmed bowls and serve with lots of crusty bread.
Ian Leatt is general manager of Pegasus Publications and a trained chef.