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Classic French Steamed Mussels

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Bowl of steamed mussels
White Packert/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images
This is my take on the classic recipe for French steamed mussels -- you know, the big bowl of mussels bathed in white wine, butter and garlic? It's both easy and quick, but like all such recipes, the quality of the ingredients matters a lot. Buy the best mussels and good sweet butter and use a white wine you'd drink yourself. Figure on a pound of mussels per person for a main course; this recipe serves 2.

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 lb live mussels
  • 1 T unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup white wine
  • 2 chopped scallions or 1 chopped shallot
  • 2 chopped green garlic shoots or 2 cloves chopped garlic

Preparation:

Scrub and debeard the mussels. The "beard" is the fibrous hairy thing hanging from one side of the tasty bivalve. Pull it off with a side-to-side motion.

In case you are wondering, a mussel is alive if it reacts. Its shell should be closed. If it is open, sit the mussel on the kitchen couter for a bit. It may close when you are not looking.

Heat the butter over medium-high heat in a large, wide-bottomed pot with a lid; I use a Dutch oven. Saute the shallot or green onion until it is soft but not browned. Add the garlic cloves if using -- if you are using green garlic, leave it out for now.

Add the white wine (I'd suggest a chenin blanc or something crisp, but you can use any decent white), and bring it to a boil. Add the mussels in one layer if possible.

Cover the pot and let the mussels steam for 3-8 minutes. After three minutes, check the mussels; many should be open. You want them all open, but some will do this faster than others.

As soon as most of the mussels are open, turn off the heat and toss in the green garlic, if using. Cover for a minute while you prepare bowls and plates.

Spoon out plenty of mussels and broth, which should be briny enough to not need any more salt. Throw out any mussels that did not open.

Serve with crusty bread, more white wine -- and an extra bowl for the shells.

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