Bastille Day: Moules à la Marinière

Happy Bastille Day! I know it seems a bit odd of a holiday to be celebrating, but this day will always hold a special place in my heart because it is my parents’ wedding anniversary. 33 years (that’s right, 33 years!) ago today, my parents tied the knot, which was just the beginning of a long-lasting, loving relationship and inspiration.

Billie Jean and Russell back in the day

My mom is a high school librarian and my dad is retired, so they have the pleasure of taking an immense summer vacation every year. The typically road trip. Through Spain, through the south east US, and this year, through eastern Canada. With stops in Montreal, Quebec and Prince Edward Island. PEI is very well known for their mussels and I was a bit disappointed when my dad said he didn’t have any there. While I’m not the hugest shellfish fan, I have developed a love for these little suckers over the years.

So with Bastille Day, my parents’ trip to PEI, and my upcoming trip to France later this summer as the inspiration for my weekend feast with my sister, I turned to Julia Child and the book I shamefully have never cooked from. I wanted something simple, light and easy for our mid-day meal, so when my eyes fell on Moules à la Marinière (mussels steamed in wine and herbs) I knew I’d found it. A one pot meal oh so appropriate for the holiday, the anniversary and my vacation day dreams.

This recipe was amazingly easy and super delicious. I couldn’t believe that when I opened the pot after just five minutes I had actually created mussels, that they actually opened, and that they actually tasted like they would in a restaurant. The flavorings are simple and let the shellfish shine through, and the serving liquid (a combination of white wine and mussel juices) was divine. I highly recommend giving this a try because I know you will be just as pleasantly surprised as I was at the results.

Moules à la Marinière* (serves 2)

  • 1.5-2 lbs fresh mussels**
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots
  • 4 sprigs flat leaf parsley
  • 3-4 sprigs thyme
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 bay leaf
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 3 tbsp butter

Melt the butter in a large pot, add the shallots and garlic, cook for a few minutes to soften. Add herbs and pepper cook for 30 seconds or so to release flavors. Add wine and bring to a boil. Boil for 2-3 minutes to cook off the alcohol and reduce volume slightly.

Add mussels and cover tightly. Boil over high heat for about 5 minutes until shells are open and mussels are done. During the five minute cooking time, frequently (every minute or so) grasp the pot, thumbs clamped to hold on lid and give a quick toss to mussels, up and down motion, so they change levels and cook evenly.

When done, ladle mussels into shallow soup bowls, and ladle liquid over. You can let the liquid settle for a minute, if you are worried about sand (the sand will settle on the bottom while resting). Enjoy!

** Scrub mussel thoroughly and remove and ‘beards’ between the shell halves. Soak them in water for 1-2 hours  so they will disgorge sand and lose a bit of the saltiness. FYI floaters are ok – about half of my mussels floated in the soaking water, while the others sank. They were all tightly closed still, but opened up while cooking. Discard and open non-cooked mussels, or any non-opened cooked mussel, as these are bad.

* recipe slightly adapted from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking

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