Elements of Food, Favorite Things

Moules a la Mariniere

Moules, the French word for mussels, are one of my most favorite treats from the sea. I give credit to my French food loving husband for having introduced me to these little ocean delights. I think that a lot of people are intimidated by these little creatures, one, because they seem difficult to prepare, and two, they come across as “fishy.” Here is my thought on that. I believe anything can be enjoyable with the correct preparation. Sure, if you simply boiled the mussels in water, they’d be fishy and unappetizing. You can’t say you don’t like mussels if you haven’t had them prepared well. It’s kinda like the waiter who once told me I couldn’t say I hated Chardonnay, because I was obviously trying the wrong kinds. It’s true. He brought me a chardonnay that tasted like a lovely Sauvignon Blanc.

There are those of course who prefer to eat foods not in their natural state. I think that the presentation of these mussels in their shell is beautiful, and preparing mussels is one of the easiest culinary adventures to embark on. Maybe we’re lucky that we have a fantastic seafood market in town that brings in mussels “restaurant ready” meaning…that long 3 hour process Julia Child talks about (soaking, scrubbing, debearding) is all unnecessary. The mussels we buy are ready to take a bath in wine and butter…

For our first Valentine’s Day as a married couple, my husband and I had made dinner reservations for a lovely evening out. Sadly, a few days before, our little puppy Lola broke her leg and needed major surgery. We knew the best thing to do was to stay home with our little one on Valentine’s Day, and I honestly couldn’t be happier about that decision. We created an amazing dinner of mussels, wonderful, fragrant French cheeses and a special bottle of wine brought to us from France from wonderful friends in Paris, all in the privacy of our own home, with our little Lola. Sometimes, recreating a fancy dinner at home is just as expensive as going out. When it comes to mussels, this is the complete opposite truth. We bought our mussels at $3.99 a pound. Yep, $3.99 and you only need about a pound of mussels per person. 8 bucks for our entree? Amazing. I already had butter, shallots, and a light white wine ready to go at home. Why have we not done this before? It may look fancy and impressive, but it’s the easiest dinner I’ve ever made. The recipe below is adapted from the original Julia Child, Mussels a la Mariniere, with a few minor tweaks and suggestions.


  • 1 pound of mussels per person, maybe a couple extras for those who decide to not wake up (aka, not open) during the steaming process. Give them a quick rinse in a strainer and discard any with visible broken shells. If you are making this for more than 2 people, double the below recipe so you have enough cooking liquid.
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 2 cups of light white wine (pino grigio, sauv blanc)
  • 1/2 cup of minced shallots, leeks or green onions
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh Thyme
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh Parsley
  • Heavy Cream (optional) You can add in a couple tablespoons to give your liquid a thicker, richer taste.


  1. In a large enameled dutch oven ( I use my Le Creuset Braiser) bring the wine, butter, heavy cream (optional) shallots (leeks or green onions), bay leaf, thyme and salt and pepper to a boil. Let boil for 3-4 minutes until it is slightly reduced (thickened a little bit)
  2. Carefully add the mussels to the pot, and cover tightly. Boil quickly over high heat. After 3 minutes, uncover and redistribute the mussels around the pot for even cooking. Recover and continue boiling for another 2-3 minutes.
  3. Mussels are done when they have opened and are pink and orange in color. If by this point there are any mussels that have not opened up, discard those mussels.
  4. Use a large strainer spoon to lift the mussels into large bistro bowls and ladle the cooking liquid on top. Garish with fresh parsley.
  5. Serve with LOTS of hot, crusty french baguette (for soaking up the wine and butter…) a selection of french cheeses and a bottle of Sancerre, Muscadet or Vouvray. Enjoy!
Moules a la Mariniere

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