Here is the simplest version of this most typical of French methods for cooking mussels. They are steamed open in a big pot with wine and flavorings, and it takes only about 5 minutes. Then the mussels, shells and all, are dipped out into soup plates, and the cooking liquor is poured over them. Each guest removes the mussels one by one from their shells with fingers or a fork and discards the shells into a side dish. In addition to shell dish and fork, provide your guests with a soupspoon for drinking up the mussel juices, a big napkin, and a finger bowl. Along with the mussels serve French bread, butter, and a chilled, light, dry white wine such as Muscadet, dry Graves, or one of the Pouillys.
- 2 cups of light, dry white wine or 1 cup dry white vermouth
- ½ cup minced shallots, or green onions, or very finely minced onions
- 8 parsley sprigs
- ½ bay leaf
- ¼ tsp thyme
- 1/8 tsp pepper
- 6 Tb butter
- 6 quarts scrubbed, soaked mussels (see Notes)
- ½ cup roughly chopped parsley
- An 8- to 10-quart enameled kettle with cover
Bring the wine to the boil in the kettle with the rest of the ingredients listed. Boil for 2 to 3 minutes to evaporate its alcohol and to reduce its volume slightly.
Add the mussels to the kettle. Cover tightly and boil quickly over high heat. Frequently grasp the kettle with both hands, your thumbs clamped to the cover, and toss the mussels in the kettle with an up and down slightly jerky motion so the mussels will change levels and cook evenly. In about 5 minutes the shells will swing open and the mussels are done.
With a big skimmer, dip the mussels into wide soup plates. Allow the cooking liquid to settle for a moment so any sand will sink to the bottom. Then ladle the liquid over the mussels, sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.
This recipe serves 8.