Moules Mariniere (mussels cooked in white wine)
This is a quintessentially classic French dish that you will see on most bistro menus in France no matter where you are. But down here in the Languedoc you will see it on almost every menu because this area is well known for it’s shellfish production. The Etang de Thau (a large lagoon just inland from the Mediterranean near Sete) is famous for its mussel and oyster beds and as a result we have access to fresh mussels almost all year round.
Cooked in a paired with the slightly citrusy local Picpoul de Pinet wine you have a marriage made in heaven. Traditionally this dish is made just by steaming the moules in wine, but I have seen many variations on this dish locally, including a very popular version with blue cheese. Not my favourite, I must admit. But I do have a penchant for a good dash of cream added to mine.
The most important thing about cooking moules is to make sure that all your mussels are fresh. Firstly if you can buy them fresh from a reputable fish monger rather than the supermarket, please do so. Secondly, it’s all in the sorting. Put all your mussels in a cold basin of fresh water. Remove any damaged shells, and any that remain open. Remove the beards by tugging it towards the base of the mussel with a downwards motion. Lastly, once you have steamed the mussels, do not eat or force open any unopened mussels.
Recipe (a generous portion for 2 people)
1 kg of fresh mussels (cleaned and sorted)
2 celery stalks
3 large cloves of garlic
1 handful of parsley
500ml dry white wine
250ml of single cream
- Finely chop the garlic and celery
- Add spring onion and celery to a large pot with a lid
- Sweat off in a tablespoon of olive oil until translucent
- Add the white wine and allow to simmer until you have cooked off the alcohol
- Add the single cream
- Add the mussels and put on the pot lid
- Steam until the mussels have opened, don’t over cook, you don’t want the mussels to become dry and crumbly.
- Add chopped parsley
Serve with some sauce, and a few slices of fresh baguette to mop up the sauce