Mussels are one of those delicious items that seems extremely exotic and expensive, but is actually extremely cheap and very easy to prepare.
Darn you, gourmet restaurants, for tricking us for all these years! I will never again be tricked into buying a $15 appetizer of mussels!
Dave and I discovered a new (to us) fish market in San Diego, which is what inspired this latest seafood dish. The market is called Catalina Offshore Products, which is in the Linda Vista area of San Diego. If you are in San Diego and want a place to pick up some extremely fresh fish, this is the place to go! Also, they apparently distribute to many of the San Diego seafood restaurants around town- in my opinion if it’s good enough for the chefs it’s good enough for me!
The purpose of our visit was because I was seeking black cod (for another soon-to-be tested recipe), and spontaneously decided to also purchase some black mussels. ($5.95/pound.. what?!) These mussels were straight from Baja, which is as local as you can get around here. I may or may not have done a little happy dance while we were at the market for this reason. I love local seafood because of the freshness factor, and also it’s always nice to feel like you’re supporting local industry. That being said, if you don’t live on a coast, Whole Foods or another upscale grocery chain will likely have items of suitable freshness.
Moules Marinières, roughly translated as Mariner-Style Mussels, is a classic French Country dish made with mussels that are steamed in a sauce of either white wine or hard cider. There are several variations- some are more of a broth, while others use some cream or creme fraîche (this recipe). Additionally, there is a recipe that actually calls for using mayo in the sauce (this kind of weirds me out, I’m not going to lie). One of the most popular ways of preparing Moules Marinières is to serve them accompanied with french fries, in which case they become Moules Frites.
I had some Julian cider around the house (again, keeping it local!), so that’s what I used for the alcohol component. The cider made the sauce a little more tart and interesting, but if you just have white wine that would absolutely be a fine alternative.
Look at those beautiful mussels! You want to be careful to scrub them and pull of any “beards”- not dangerous to eat, just unappealing. Additionally, you want to check to make sure that your mussels are still alive. Discard any dead mussels- ones that are visibly cracked or that don’t close after being tapped on the counter (it sometimes takes a minute or two).
The epitome of rustic French cuisine. Make sure you have a loaf of french bread (or sourdough) to sop up the delicious sauce. Or, if you’re feeling bold, you could whip up a batch of french fries to create a nice bowl of Moules Frites!
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 pound fresh mussels
- 1 leek sliced thin
- 1 shallot minced
- 4 cloves of garlic minced
- 2 cups dry hard cider
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice bottled or fresh
- 3 tablespoons crème fraîche
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Parsley for garnish
- Prepare the mussels by scrubbing them under cold water and pulling off any "beards" (any pieces that look like hair coming out of the mussel shell). Discard any mussels that are open and do not close when tapped on the edge of the counter.
- In a stockpot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add garlic, shallot, and leek. Season with salt and pepper. Saute until softened, about 10 minutes.
- Add cider to the pot. Turn heat to high. Bring mixture to a boil and simmer for a few minutes to slightly reduce the sauce.
- Add the mussels and cover with the lid. Give the pot a shake to ensure the mussels are evenly distributed. Cook for about 1 minute and then open and stir. Check the mussels. The mussels will be done when all the shells have opened and the meat is exposed. If they have not all opened after 1 minute, cover and cook for an additional 30 seconds-1 minute.
- Once mussels are cooked, turn off heat, and remove the mussels from the pot to a serving bowl.
- To finish the sauce, whisk in the crème fraîche and lemon juice, and season with additional salt and pepper as desired.
- Pour sauce over mussels and garnish with parsley. Serve with a loaf of crusty french bread.