My daughters are absolutely fascinated with seafood. Maybe it’s because they don’t see a whole lot of it in Columbus, Ohio. But they are willing and excited to try almost any type of seafood. We go to Siesta Key in Sarasota, Florida every year and we make it a point to eat seafood almost every single night. We are like kids in a candy shoppe when we get down there. Fresh, ample well-cooked seafood is one of the pure joys of a beach vacation. We were at Whole Foods just yesterday and my youngest went straight up to the buckets of iced down fresh fish at the fish counter and started touching the fish, eyeballs and all, then moved on to the iced down stone crab claws and started “shaking” their claws. It’s a strange obsession but I’m hoping at the very least, I can teach them to love a healthy protein option (or become a fishmonger at the local grocery store). I cook a lot of fish at home but I rarely cook shellfish, aside from shrimp, and until recently I had never prepared mussels at home, despite this being one of my husband’s favorite dishes.
A few months ago in my French Cooking Class we prepared The French Culinary Institutes’ Steamed Mussels with White Wine, Shallots and Parsley (we had some double cream on hand so we added that for a nice creamy twist). I decided to make this dish for my family a few Sundays ago. It turned out that instead of making it FOR them, I made it WITH them. Both of my girls and my husband wanted to take part in the entire process. First, we took our mussels out of the fridge (always keep them on ice in the fridge until ready to use), put them all in a colander and rinsed them very well. Then I taught them how to de-beard the mussels and how to tap them on the counter if they were open so that they’d close (the idea that the mussels were alive was mind-blowing to my children –> wait ’til we tackle lobster!). I explained to my girls that if the mussel didn’t close after being tapped, it was dead. We set the dead ones aside with the intention of throwing them away. We went about cooking the mussels and eating them along with our grill pan toasted crusty bread to sop up all that flavorful sauce . All loved the meal and all were excited to have learned something new.
Fast forward to the next morning, when I went to put something in my kindergartener’s back pack. When I opened it, the most horrid, offensive, foul odor came out of it. It was as if something had died in there. I reached in to find a snack sized zip lock baggie — it’s contents? One dead mussel! “Layla, WHAT were you going to do with THIS?” I barked at her into the bathroom where she was obediently brushing her teeth in preparation for the day. She replied, “I wanted to share it with my class and tell them what I learned this weekend about mussels.” Heart. Melted. Immediately. The teachable moments are everywhere….even in the kitchen!
Steamed Mussels with White Wine, Shallots and Cream (Serves 4-6)
2-3 lbs of mussels (depending on whether you want them as an appetizer or meal)
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, finely diced
4 cloves of garlic, finely diced
1 cup dry white wine, divided
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 oz unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 small bunch flat-leaf parsley
1 bay leaf, crumbled
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
Rinse the mussels. Remove the beard by pulling it toward the end of the shell and it should come off. Tap any open mussels on the counter to get them to close. Discard any mussels that do not close.
Chop the parsley leaves and set aside. Chop the parsley stems in small pieces. In large pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the wine, cream, half of the butter, finely chopped parsley stems, bay leaf and some fresh ground pepper. Give it a good stir. Add mussels. Cover and bring to a boil, shaking the pan regularly. Cook until the mussels open and are cooked through, about 10-15 minutes. Scoop mussels out and divide evenly among bowls. Reduce sauce slightly to intensify flavor. Add the rest of the butter at the end and season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour sauce over mussels evenly. Sprinkle with chopped parsley leaves. Serve with crusty bread.
*If you want to make this dish extra creamy, start with 1 cup of heavy cream in a heavy sauce pan and reduce it down by half to make a “double cream” and use 1/2 cup of the double cream.
Recipe adapted from The French Culinary Institute.