Mussels in white wine sauce, or Moules Marinières, is an easy recipe to prepare at home - and so much more affordable than ordering mussels in a restaurant. Only 6 ingredients, and they cook in less than 10 minutes!
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Today, we are making mussels in white wine sauce. Or, in French, the fancy-sounding moules mariniéres, which really just means sailor's mussels - aka humble, poor people food. A little butter, shallots, and white wine, and something magical happens.
Do you think mussels are fancy? Most people do. Here's a secret: they are also CHEAP, and easy to cook at home. Like $4 a pound cheap. And ready in 10 minutes easy.
Why aren't you making mussels at home all the time? Are you apprehensive about cooking them in your own kitchen? Afraid something bad will happen or you won't do it right? Well, read on my friends. I'm here to help.
- Fresh mussels: Look for farm-raised, rope-grown mussels that have wet, shiny shells and smell like the ocean.
- White wine: Choose a light wine like Savignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio.
- Shallots: The mild flavor of shallots won't overpower the delicate white wine sauce.
- Unsalted butter
- Flat-leaf parsley
- Kosher salt
- Lemon wedges: If desired, for serving.
How to make it
Before you cook the mussels, fill a bowl with water and let them soak for about 20 minutes or so. They'll start breathing and expel sand. Drain the water and any sand or grit from the bowl.
After soaking, rinse each mussel and scrub off any grit from the outside of the shell with a clean brush. In general, the mussels you are buying will be farm-raised, so there shouldn't be too much to deal with here, but this will help to ensure that you don't get any grit in the sauce.
Since you are probably going to be buying mussels that are rope-grown on farms, they generally won't have beards, but you still might find a couple hanging around that do have one.
To remove the beard from a mussel, pull the fibers out, then pull down toward the bottom, pointy part of the shell until it releases.
Put a large pot or wide casserole over medium-high heat. I love my new Lodge enamel cast iron casserole dish. It works perfectly for a recipe like this because it holds the heat evenly.
Thinly slice two shallots. Add a couple of tablespoons of butter to the pan. Once melted, add the shallots and sauté until soft and just beginning to brown.
When the shallots are ready, add the white wine to the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, add mussels, cover the pot, and allow to steam for 5 - 7 minutes until the mussels are fully opened. (Leave the lid on! Don't peek!)
Remove the lid, and another pat of butter, and serve with crusty bread. Fancy dinner is done.
Tips for storing, cleaning and cooking mussels
Take a look at the guidelines below so you'll never fear the fanciness, and start cooking mussels at home. For more resources and information, the Mussel Industry Council has a great website.
- To store mussels in the refrigerator, if they are in a plastic bag, remove them and put them in a clean bowl and cover with a damp kitchen towel or paper towel. If they are in a mesh/net bag, you can leave them in there and then place them in the covered bowl in the fridge. They will last for a few days - just make sure the towel stays damp. Never store the mussels in water! Make sure you drain the bowl of any liquid daily and that the mussels smell fresh like the ocean.
- It's easy to tell if a mussel is good to eat or if it has gone bad. As you are rinsing the mussels look for any that are slightly open. If open, tap with your fingernail or tap agains the sink. If the mussel closes, it's still alive and safe to cook. If it doesn't - it's dead. Throw it out!
- Once you start cooking, don't keep opening and closing the pot lid! The mussels need the steam to cook! You can swirl the pot around a little if you like. Or open for one stir if you've got a lot of them in there.
- After you've cooked the mussels, only eat the ones that have opened fully. If a mussel is closed after cooking, toss it. DO NOT EAT A MUSSEL THAT IS UNOPENED AFTER COOKING!
Do you have to soak mussels before cooking?
You should soak mussels in water right before cooking, but only for about 20 minutes. They will begin breathing in the water and expel any sand. Your local seafood market is likely selling farm-raised mussels, which are grown on ropes and don't touch the ocean floor, so they should be largely free of grit. But don't skip this as there still may be a little bit and it's good to get rid of it so you don't chomp down on sand.
How many mussels do you need per person?
An average serving of mussels is about one pound per person. Keep in mind, that weight includes the shell. And incidentally - I can usually eat more than a pound myself, so you might want to err on a little more than that.
How long does it take to cook mussels?
This is the beautiful part - it only takes about 5 - 7 minutes to steam fresh mussels!
Try these easy seafood recipes!
- Baked Salmon with Radishes and Peas also has a white wine sauce and keeps the French food vibes going.
- Cilantro Lime Shrimp with Tequila Butter is another quick and easy dinner that also has a little liquor in it!
Mussels in White Wine Sauce (Moules Marinières)
- 4 lbs Mussels fresh, in the shell
- 2 shallots thinly sliced
- 4 tablespoon butter divided
- 2 cups dry white wine
- fresh flat-leaf parsley roughly chopped
- kosher salt to taste
- lemon wedges for serving
- Soak mussels in cool water for about 20 minutes to remove sand and grit. Drain water.
- Under running water, wash each mussel and gently scrub with a nylon brush, removing debris, barnacles, etc. Pull out any beards.
- Make sure all mussels are completely closed. If any are slightly open, tap them with your fingernail or against the side of the sink. If they close up, they are good to go. If they remain open, they are dead - discard them.
- Place stock pot or wide skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoon butter to the pot. Once melted, add shallots and sauté until soft and just beginning to brown.
- Add white wine to the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, add a pinch of salt, then add all mussels. Cover the pot and allow to steam for 5 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally.
- Check after 5 minutes to see if all mussels are open. If not, return lid to the pot and steam for 2 more minutes.
- Remove lid, add 2 tablespoon butter, swirl and stir. Remove any mussels that have not opened. DO NOT EAT A MUSSEL THAT DIDN'T OPEN!! Transfer mussels to serving bowls, spoon sauce over them, top with chopped parsley. Serve with crusty bread.
- DO NOT EAT MUSSELS THAT DON'T OPEN!! Discard any mussels that are unopened after cooking. I apply this rule to mussels that are only slightly open as well. The shells should be very open so the mussel is easy to remove.
- I used my Lodge cast iron enameled casserole pan to make these mussels, but you could also use a large Dutch oven or a deep skillet with a lid.
- Be sure to read the post above for more tips and FAQS about buying, storing, cleaning and cooking mussels.