There’s something magical about garlic, cream, white wine and fresh herbs. Maybe it’s because when you simmer them together they play a beautiful ballad. Perhaps it’s simplicity at its best. Maybe… ok, no need to overthink this. They go together so well because they are simply delicious!
There are many, many French recipes where these core ingredients find a happy home, but my favorite place for them is in a steaming pot of mussels.
To me, mussels are a special, once-in-a-while treat, but the more I think about it, that needs to change for several reasons. First of all, they are very cost effective. For just under $10 my family of four feasted... and had leftovers for lunch the next day! Secondly, they are easy to find. Most grocery stores carry them, but you should call ahead just to be sure. Third, they make a wonderful, quick-and-easy weeknight meal!
When you get your mussels home, the first thing you want to do is place them in a bowl and allow a stream of cold water to run over the bivalves for a couple of minutes. This will help remove any sand or dirt.
The next step is to de-beard the mussels. Yes, you read that right. Mussels sometimes have little beards that need to be pulled out. You’ll find them in the center of the slit where they will eventually open. Use a paper towel or a kitchen towel to grab the beard and pull! It will come right out. More often than not, very few of the mussels you purchase will have beards, since they are likely farm raised, and go through a de-bearding machine during the packaging process.
You also want to make sure all of the mussels are closed. This signifies they are alive. Yes, alive! This often freaks my students out. If you find any that are ajar, tap them on your work surface. If they close on their own, that’s great! It means they’re still alive. If not, throw it out. You want to eat the freshest shellfish possible, so don’t take any chances.
Now you’re ready to cook them! Heat up a large pan and gently sauté some sliced onions in butter. As you’ll see in my pictures I added some smoked sausage at this point. I love a good surf and turf! Once the onions and sausage are tender, add several cloves of minced garlic. Please use fresh garlic and not the garlic that comes in a jar.
Pour in a very generous splash of white wine, the same amount of heavy cream, and then add the mussels.
Stir well, and cover the pot. Cook the mussels, stirring occasionally, until they have all opened. This will take approximately 8 minutes. Once they are all open, add a large pinch of fresh parsley. Taste the sauce, and add salt and pepper to your liking.
Serve the mussels in shallow bowls with some of the sauce, and a baguette on the side. You can even make a simple side salad to round out the meal. Voila! You have an impressive and sophisticated French feast in 30 minutes or less! This is also an excellent dish for your next dinner party!
If you want to learn more ways to prepare delicious French food without complex cooking, join The Chopping Block for our hands-on Simple French Food class. We still have a few spots available in tonight's class at Lincoln Square starting at 7pm, and this French cooking class will be available again at both locations in February. Stay tuned tomorrow morning when our February class calendars are released!