Moules à la Marinière is one of my very favorite meals. This simple recipe is easy to prepare and your family will love it!
Saturday night is officially Shellfish Night at our house, because that’s the day I go to the farmer’s market. And because shellfish is such a nutrient dense food (right up there with organ meats), I have decided that we must eat it at least once a week. We are lucky to be able to get local, sustainably harvested mussels, abalone, oysters, clams, scallops, and seaweed from the Carlsbad Aquafarm.
We started with a dozen oysters on the half shell.
Oysters are nature’s best source of the trace mineral zinc, containing up to almost 100 mg per gram. (Second on the list is ginger root at about 7 mg per gram, followed by beef and lamb at about 6 mg per gram. Zinc in grains and legumes is more difficult to absorb because of the presence of phytic acid in these foods.) As zinc is needed for a healthy prostate gland and for the replacement of seminal fluid, oysters are considered important for male virility. But oysters are important for women as well. Zinc is required for numerous enzymes that aid in reproduction and mental function. Zinc cannot be stored and pregnancy increases the body’s requirement for zinc. Oysters are the best way of meeting that need.
Oysters also supply iron, selenium and other trace minerals; fat-soluble vitamins A and D; and the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. The long-chain fatty acids in oysters make a synergistic combination with saturated fatty acids from butter and coconut oil.
Source: Food Features: Oysters
It’s easy to shuck oysters. All you need is a good oyster shucking knife (I got mine at Sur La Table), a dish towel or two (to protect your hand and arm), and a sturdy flat surface (I use a wooden cutting board on a counter top).
Wrap the dish towel around your hand and forearm. With that hand, hold the oyster flat on the cutting board. Use your other hand to hold the knife. At the top of the oyster, you will see a hinge — use your knife to wedge/pry the oyster open. If you keep it very flat on the cutting board, pressing it down as hard as you can, you will be able to use leverage to easily open the oyster.
It took me a few tries to get this down. The first time I tried to shuck oysters I had to throw most of them away. That was before I had a decent oyster shucking knife. But now, it’s so easy, I can shuck a dozen oysters in 5 minutes flat.
Our second course was mussels: Moules à la Marinière.. I adapted a recipe from the Balthazar Cookbook. I love this recipe because it has lots of good healthy saturated fats: a whole stick (8 ounces) of butter, plus 1/2 cup of creme fraiche (cultured cream).
The recipe also calls for 5 pounds of mussels (you could probably get away with 4 pounds). It will feed 2 very hungry people or 4 moderately hungry people. If you serve this with fries and crusty bread, and a salad or soup, you could easily feed a family of 4-6. (We didn’t have fries or a salad; we just ate mussels and bread).
Moules à la Marinière
Mussels (5 pounds)
Grass-fed butter, I used KerryGold — the butter does not need to be raw, since it will be boiled in this recipe (8 ounces)
White wine (2 cups) — I used this wonderful organic chenin blanc from Trader Joe’s — only $5.99/bottle and made from organic grapes
Creme fraiche (1/2 cup) — I did not have any creme fraiche so I used homemade yogurt cheese; you could also use cream — this is going to be boiled so you don’t need to use raw cream
Freshly ground white pepper (4 tsp) — this is a good staple to have in your kitchen; you also need it for making chicken liver pate
Garlic, peeled and chopped (1 head)
Celery stalks (4)
Thyme (8 sprigs) — I have this in my garden
One big handful of parsley
(The original recipe called for shallots but I never seem to have shallots on hand; I think the recipe is delicious without them, but if you want to add them, you need 10 shallots)
Crusty bread (I used French Meadow sourdough bread, toasted)
I like to get everything ready ahead of time and set it all out “mise en place”. The only thing you can’t do ahead is the mussels. It’s best to keep them in the fridge covered with ice in a plastic bag until you are ready to serve. (Same with the oysters. What I did was do the oyster course first, then got up to prepare the second course.)
1. Keep your mussels in the fridge on ice while you so all your chopping/preparing of ingredients.
2. When you have everything ready to go and you’re all set to eat, set a large stock pot on low heat and melt the butter.
3. Add the celery (sliced on the bias), garlic, and thyme and sautee for 15 minutes.
4. While that’s happening, take the mussels out of the fridge and rinse them in a colander. With your hands, remove the “beard” — the little hairy bit — from each mussel. It’s near the hinge. Pull hard. (Do NOT do this step ahead. After you do this, the mussels die and go bad, so it’s important to do this just before cooking.)
5. The vegetables should be soft, but not brown. Add the wine, creme fraiche (or yogurt cheese or cream), and turn the stove up to high. It should come to a boil pretty quickly.
6. Stick your bread in the toaster oven or in the broiler.
7. When your broth is boiling, add the mussels and cook for 3 minutes, or until all the mussels open. As they open, remove them one by one with tongs and set them in large serving bowls. Discard any mussels that do not open.
8. Add the chopped parsley to the broth, stir gently, then pour the broth over the mussels. Serve with crusty bread for dipping.
Seth said this meal was outstanding. I have to agree. The best mussels I have ever eaten. Ever! If you served this dish at a dinner party with real French fries and Belgian ale or a crisp white wine, people would think they died and went to heaven.