I've been wanting to make a large pot of mussels ever since the first time I had them in some restaurant many years ago. I couldn't tell you what the restaurant was or who I was with, but you can be sure each and every shell was emptied and the drippy juices were soaked up with crusty bread. It would have been heresy not to. Every time I see them on the menu I strong arm my dining companions to get it. Who would have guessed it was so incredibly easy to make this?
I had a friend coming over for dinner tonight and I wanted the meal to be quick, easy and interactive, and after a tiny hesitation, I settled on a simple recipe by the infamous Ina Garten. Before catching my train home I stopped by the French Market and cleaned out the seafood counter of all of their beautiful looking mussels. I grabbed a bunch of parsley from the produce section and a bottle of white wine and a French baguette from an artisan cheese corner. I felt very Parisian as I ran to catch my train, hopping aboard just as the doors were closing. Once home, the recipe fell together in just a few minutes. The house smelled fantastic and dinner was ready to serve just as my friend rang the doorbell. Fantastic timing!
I am much more confident when it comes to baking, but this seemed almost foolproof. If you're ever in need to impress someone or if you just want to share a great meal with a friend or two this makes a great entree for two to four people or an appetizer for a crowd. Give it a try, I promise it will become a favorite regular on your dinner table.
look at all these empty shells
Mussels in White Wine
adapted from Ina Garten
3 pounds cultivated mussels
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 cup chopped onion or shallots (5 to 7 shallots)
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic (5 to 6 cloves)
1/2 cup chopped canned plum tomatoes, drained (4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon good saffron threads
1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 tbsp dried thyme)
1 cup good white wine
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
To clean the mussels, put them in a large bowl with 2 quarts of cold water and the flour and soak for 30 minutes, or until 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. Mine were clean, but a few did open up early and I was very sad to see them go.
In a large non-aluminum stockpot, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion or shallots and cook for 5 minutes; then add the garlic and cook for 3 more minutes, or until the shallots are translucent. Add the tomatoes, saffron, parsley, thyme, wine, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil.
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. Pour the mussels and the sauce into a large bowl and serve hot with a sliced baguette for sopping up the yummy juices.