Mussels with Thyme and White Wine Cream Sauce - Recipe

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Wine, cream, and butter. The holy trinity of the devout epicurean. Together they produce a magic strong enough to bless many a dish, and this is probably my favorite. AKA "moules mariniere" without the cream, or "moules a la crème" with it. Famous at Belgian and French bistros, you'll spend significantly less if you make it on your own.

Difficult? Hardly. Expensive? Not really. Where I live, mussels are about $4 a pound. It really depends mostly on the type of wine you use. It is also quick (the whole shebang can be ready in about 15 minutes). Finally, it is delicious--perfect for sitting outdoors on your balcony while the sun sets. Eat while drinking a good white wine (I'm usually more of a red wine guy, but with this, a good pouilly fuisse is my favorite, or fume blanc). Enjoy with friends or a loved one and you are liable to see your entire life in a new, more optimistic light, at least until you have to do the dishes and dispose of the mussel shells.

I heartily recommend buying a good loaf of crusty bread to dip in the addictively delicious sauce. Fresh linguini is also a great option. As another alternative, if you have the wherewithal and motivation to make your own french fries (Belgian-cut, please), these too are delicious dipped in the sauce, and, of course, make up the traditional "moules-frites."

Mussels with Thyme and White Wine Cream Sauce
(aka Moules à la crème)

serves 2

1 lb. mussels (de-beard if necessary and keep refrigerated until use)
5 shallots, sliced (or 1/2 large onion, sliced thin)
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 handful of fresh thyme on stem
1 1/2 cups white wine
1/4 cup cream
4 Tbsps. butter
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and pepper

1) De-beard the mussels if necessary and keep them cold until ready to use. If any of them are open they might well be dead. If they are only slightly open, rap them on the side of a bowl or the counter. If they close up again, they're edible, if not, they are DEAD. If they are dead prior to cooking, do NOT eat. Dispose of immediately or possibly pay the horrible horrible consequences.

2) In a large, heavy-bottomed pot with a lid, heat the olive oil and melt the butter. Sautee the shallots and/or onions until translucent, then add the garlic, sautee for a couple minutes more, then add the wine and the thyme, stirring everything around.

3) Once the wine is bubbling, add the mussels. Put the lid on, and shake the pot a bit to coat them. Let stand for 5-7 minutes. By this time the mussels should have opened up. Those that haven't, you should discard. Add the cream, a bit of salt and pepper, and stir everything. Leave out the cream and you've got "moules mariniere."

4) Add some cooked, fresh linguini to a bowl (this is optional) spoon several mussels over the top, then ladle a generous amount of the delciously fragrant sauce over it all. Mop sauce up with crusty bread or frites!

And, in closing, I thought I'd post this somewhat zen-like bit of "engrish," brought to us from a chinese restaurant I went past in Minneapolis. Wouldn't you prefer this over "sameness soup"? I would. (click on pic to enlarge)

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Sue said...

Really fine photo of the mussels!

drbiggles said...

Yeah !!! Difference soup, I like that.
Our local mesquite hamburger joint has 9 Pis Nuggets on the menu. So far it's been up for over 15 years that way. I like that too.


Barbara (Biscuit Girl) said...

Better to offer Difference Soup than Indifference Soup.

The mussels look great! I never tried them until we went to Ireland two years ago. They were and still are the best ones I've ever eaten.

tom naka said...
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Ryan said...

Almost exactly like the recipe I used. Just had them tonight, actually! As an alternative to the crusty bread, try this...Slice pitas into quarters, brush lightly with melted butter (or spray with Pam), sprinkle on garlic salt and pepper, and bake 10 minutes @ 350 degrees. The crunchy pita will contrast the texture of the mussels, and can be used to soak up the sauce. Also, try adding fresh chopped spinach in the last 3-4 minutes...just sprinkle over the top of the mussels while they are cooking and enjoy!

Dani said...

I will try this scrumptious receipe tonight, thx for sharing!

Anonymous said...

When I was in Egypt we had "Fried Aborigines". Tasted more like aubergine, but what the hey.

Anonymous said...

We are curious why use kosher salt and pepper when Mussels are not kosher?

Kitchen Monkey said...

Stu, fair question, but a lot of people use kosher salt for culinary, rather than religious reasons. It tastes far better than table salt. To me and many others, table salt tastes, well . . . too salty, and sort of metallic. The grains in kosher salt are larger, so it's easier to handle with your fingers, and it can even give texture to a dish if you add it right before eating, or add it so that it doesn't dissolve. I don't always use kosher salt--sea salt can have the same effect and purpose, but kosher salt is readily available and inexpensive. As for kosher pepper . . . I've never owned any, and if I called for it in a recipe, it was a typo!

Anonymous said...

Kosher or sea salt is much better tasting. Home baked breads and foods canned are far superior using these salts.