There’s probably a hundred ways to make mussels in white wine, so why not 101 and use some sun-dried tomatoes!
Mussels are pretty popular in my house. Whether serving as a starter, a component on a buffet, or a quick and humble main dish for supper, these lovely little bivalves are always welcome, and always fun to eat. As seafood goes, they are also quite economical as well!
Any excuse to play with our food
There is no way around it, you just have to play with this food to eat it! My preferred method of eating is using my first perfect mussel as pincers to pull out the meat of the rest! It’s pretty primal, and works as well as anything else. It also means one less fork to wash, especially if you are camping.
A wide variety of options
Moules Marinières, or mussels steamed in white wine, is a classic dish, one that can be varied in many ways. Chose a wine you love to drink and you are half-way there. Whether you use an onion, a leek, or even shallots it is up to you, but you do need a lot of garlic. Don’t worry, it won’t be too much, I promise! Do you like fennel? Add a chopped up half a bulb and half teaspoon of crushed fennel seeds to the mix as well. Some like to add cream or crème fraîche to the pot at the end, but I like it with the clean flavor of the broth as is.
It’s all about the broth!
The sundried tomatoes add a little extra sweet edge to the dish, and the tomato paste rounds everything out. The broth is every bit as wonderful as the mussels, so plan to serve it up as well, with lots of dipping bread to help soak it all up. The addition of the stock as well as the wine is not essential, but turns the simple mussels from a feature into a meal.
After cleaning the mussels, the rest of this dish goes really quickly, so if you are having company, don’t even think about starting the cooking until your guests arrive and have nibbled on your little appetizers.
Mussels with White Wine and Sun-dried Tomatoes
- 2 lbs. mussels
- 2 tbsp. fruity olive oil
- 1 large leek or sweet onion, small chop
- 6-8 cloves garlic, yes, finely minced
- 2 tbsp. tomato paste
- 3 sprigs of thyme
- 1 large pinch saffron
- 1 bay leaf
- ¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes, finely minced
- 2 cups dry white wine you love to drink
- 2 cups fish or shrimp stock
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp. butter or vegan butter
- Parsley if you have it, chopped
- Crusty bread for dunking
First, clean the mussels. Remove any beard on the side. This is easily done with your fingers or a dry cloth and a good tug. Many mussels will already be cleaned of their beards, but beard or not, give them all a good scrub with a vegetable brush. Check them over and any that are open, tap gently and set aside for a miute. If they close, they are good, if they stay open, discard them. Discard any that are cracked.
Place them in a large bowl and cover with water, a teaspoon of salt, and a couple of tablespoons of corn meal. Let the soak for an hour or so. The mussels will suck in the water with cornmeal and disgorge it, thus cleaning out grit. I’m not sure if this is essential, but it’s how my mother did it with mussels and clams, so I’m sticking with it.
In the meantime, heat a large stockpot over medium high and sauté the onion in the olive oil just until soft, no color here. Add the garlic, tomato paste, and thyme and let this bloom for a minute or so, then toss in the saffron, bay leaf, and sun-dried tomatoes, immediately followed by the white wine and stock. Season, and bring to a boil.
Rinse the mussels and give them a last check over. Add them to the pot of fragrant, boiling liquid. They will give off their own luscious liquid which enhances the broth even more.
Cover, and check in a few minutes. As the mussels start to open, remove them to a bowl, cover, and keep warm. You don’t want them to overcook and they will be ready in different times.
Once they are all open (this time discard any that haven’t) add the butter to the broth and once it melts, add the mussels back in. Mix it all up gently, add some parsley if you have it, taste for seasoning, and place in a large bowl for serving, along with some lovely sturdy bread. Oh that broth!
Don’t forget to put out a discard bowl for everyone to toss their shells! And make sure everyone takes plenty of the broth for dipping their bread!
“Something smells amazing. What are we having?”
“Moules marinières,” Rachel said. “It seemed a shame to let mussel season close without making it at least once.”
“Oh la la,” Melody said. “Paris must have been in the air today, because I made a napoleon.”
Ana handed over a half-filled wineglass and gave Melody a quick hug. “You‘re killing me, Mel. I’m still recovering from last week’s Death by Chocolate Mousse.” ~ Carla Laureano, “Brunch at Bittersweet Café.”
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