Steamed Mussels a.k.a Moules Marinière
I never follow a precise recipe when I steam Mussels. Each version is just slightly different than the one before, but, essentially, I steam them whole in butter, garlic, onion, white wine and parsley.
I may add to these ingredients (lemon zest, chopped tomato and fresh Basil, all work nicely), but the simple form is still my favorite, and is essentially a version of the famous Moules Marinière. It is easy to make and goes great with crusty bread to sop up the delicious broth that is created by the steaming process.
How to Purchase and Prepare Mussels
The container shown above holds 2lb (1Kg) of nice Blue Mussels. This amount, which is called for in the Recipe Card below, makes a good, hearty meal for one, along with some crusty bread, but it will also nicely do two as an appetizer or light lunch.
Before cooking mussels, it is necessary to give them a good rinse, and even a little scrubbing with cold water so as to remove any dirt or debris. As you do this, pay attention and watch to see if they close during, or within a minute or so of being rinsed.
If any clams remain open at this point, you can tap them a few times and watch. If they still remain fixedly open, as is the case with the ones in the above picture, this means that they are dead and should probably discarded. If they still smell fresh, you can generally use them, but most people like to err on the side of caution and throw them away. Generally, you only get a few in each batch, so it is not that much of a sacrifice.
After giving your Mussels a good cleaning, and have discarded any that are no good, you will notice that some of them have a few strands, or even a whole clump, of hair like material protruding from one side of the shell (as shown in the circled part of the image above). These protrusions are known as the ‘Beard’ and should be removed before cooking.
These ‘beards ’are actually the means by which Mussels cling to rocks and the like underwater, and, while they are not harmful, they are inedible, and don’t improve the appearance of the Mussels once cooked. Often times, they have been removed already when you buy them, but you may find a few remaining.
To remove the beards, just grasp them firmly and yank them free. You can generally just do this with your fingers, but if you come across any really recalcitrant ones, you can use a pair of pliers to do the job.
How to make Steamed Mussels Moules Marinière style
Steaming Mussels is not difficult at all. You could, for instance, just dump the Mussels into a pot with just a little water, cook them, covered, over high heat for a few minutes, and then eat them just as they are. In practice, of course, you will generally want to make some additions to compliment the sweet Mussel meat.
Here, I am using the basic ingredients that are used in preparing the classic French dish Moules Marinière, except that I am using both Onion and Garlic in place of the more traditional Shallots.
Anyway, the process here is very simple, but you need a pot with a tight-fitting lid. Put the butter, wine and peppercorns into the pot and then start arranging the Mussels and the other ingredients in layers over them. Put in one layer of Mussels, then continue by sprinkling over some of the Onion, Garlic and Parsley. Repeat until done, but don’t use all the parsley just yet. Save some for garnishing later.
When you are ready, cover the pot and put it over a good high-flame. You want the oil to be vigorous so the bubbling wine and melted butter rises up and envelopes the mussels. Allow them to steam for about 5 to 10 minutes. When they are ready, transfer them to a serving bowl of bowl, pour over the broth and then garnish with the remaining parsley. Serve hot with bread.
By the way … if you encounter any mussels that haven’t opened up after steaming, these ones are definitely dead and should be tossed. I found two after cooking this batch.
Finally, if you serve your Steamed Mussels with French fries, you will essentially be creating Moules Frites. This dish has its origins in Belgium, but it is a popular dish in many restaurants on this side of the Pond these days too.
Your Recipe Card:
Steamed Mussels a.k.a Moules Marinière
- 2 lbs fresh Mussels
- 3 tbsp. Butter;
- ½ cup thinly sliced Onion;
- 2 -3 Garlic cloves thinly sliced;
- 1/3 cup White Wine;
- 1 tbsp. Whole Peppercorns
- 1/3 cup chopped Flat-Leaf Parsley.
- Wash and de-beard the Mussels, discarding any that are dead.
- Put the Wine, Butter, and Peppercorns at the bottom of a pot, the and the Mussels and other ingredients in two or three layers.
- Cover the pot, put it over a high flame, and allow the Mussels to steam for 5 minutes or so once the wine begins to boil.
- Transfer the Mussels and steaming liquor to bowls for service, discarding any that haven’t opened during cooking.