On Wednesday we celebrated what would’ve been the 100th birthday of one of my biggest inspirations in both food and life: Julia Child!
As a kid, I’d watch her shows less for the cooking instruction – as I was still in the Easy Bake Oven stage – but just because I found her fascinating and hilarious.
Once I was able to reach the counter tops, her fearlessness and honesty taught me that there’s nothing to fear in the kitchen. You’re going to mess up, it’s going to be OK – you’ll learn from that mistake and be a better cook because of it.
Whether it’s as simple as steaming mussels or as fancy as croquembouche, she believed in making food the right way – from scratch, using real ingredients.
And as she stated in one of my favorite books, My Life in France, “…nothing is too much trouble if it turns out the way it should.”
And making these mussels was really no trouble at all!
There is a bit of prep involved, but it happens to be the kind I find quite relaxing. I’ll go over it in case you aren’t familiar with preparing mussels.
First, you’ll want to put the mussels over ice to make sure they stay cold while you’re working. Now the inspection and cleaning phase begins!
A good mussel in one that’s closed tightly and not cracked or chipped in any way. If you come across one that’s open, give it a good tap against the counter. If it closes immediately, it’s still alive and good to go – if not, it’s already dead, throw it away!
Scrub the mussels with a brush to remove any sand, and if what they call the “beard” is present you’ll want to yank that out (see photo above).
Once cleaned, drop those dudes in your prepared soaking water (I’ll go over that in the recipe) and have a glass of wine with a friend!
You don’t necessarily have the dress up like Julia, but I feel it helps.
Also I think I need to have a kitchen towel affixed to my waist at all times. So useful!
Once you’ve done the prep, you’re 90% of the way there! Throw those beauties in a pot with some shallots, butter and wine, and go to town!
Mussels in White Wine
Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking
This recipe is delicious as is, but there are tons of ingredients you could add to boost the flavor even more! Garlic, fresh tomatoes, red pepper flakes, different herbs... get crazy!
- ~2 pounds fresh mussels, scrubbed & debearded (see post for instructions)
- 1/3 cup cornmeal or flour
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup minced shallots
- 1 1/4 cups dry white wine
- 4 sprigs fresh parsley
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1/2 small bay leaf
- freshly ground black pepper
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup roughly chopped parsley
- French bread, for dipping
- In a very large bowl, whisk together 10 cups cold water with the cornmeal or flour. Soak the cleaned mussels in this mixture for at least half an hour, or up to 2 hours. This will allow the mussels to disgorge their sand, while the cornmeal is supposed to help them become more plump. Lift the mussels out of the bowl and into a colander for a thorough rinse.
- In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until translucent. Add the wine, parsley & thyme sprigs, bay leaf and pepper; bring to a boil over high heat. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until it reduces slightly.
- Add the mussels to the pot and cover tightly. As Julia instructs, you'll want to frequently hold the lid tightly and, "...toss the mussels with an up and down slightly jerky motion so the mussels will change levels and cook evenly." Don't you just love her?
- After 4-5 minutes, the shells will have opened. Remove them from the heat, add the lemon zest and stir. Serve the mussels topped with the extra liquid from the pot and chopped parsley. And don't forget the French bread!