A pot of mussels, for me, is a treat worth sharing with special folks around. It’s rare these days that we get to partake in such a tactile experience – a large pot is slapped in the middle of a table, and folks collectively tuck in with their hands, scooping, dipping and munching on sweet mussels and typically a tangle of crispy fries or crusty bread. Mussels come in a million preparations, but this little bivalve is ever so easy to prepare. You’ve just got to know all the tricks.
When you get your mussels, they need to be alive before you cook them. A dead mussel in the pot will make your tummy unhappy later. As you go through them, mussels should be closed and if open, should close after you agitate them a bit. I usually just tap them on the counter and wait for them to close slowly. If they refuse to close, chuck ’em before cooking.
After you cook the mussels, it’s the opposite deal. If they stay closed after cooking, they are bad. Don’t eat them for fear of even more tummy unhappiness.
As I mentioned before, there are tons of way to sauce these guys – this recipe is based on one of my favorite preparations as featured by The Smith here in NYC. They bathe their bivalves in a lovely combo of shallots, thyme, wine and cream. It’s a luscious sauce that is meant to be sopped up with bread, fries, or whatever carb you can grab the fastest. I enhance my own with a heaping spoon of dijon mustard and a bit of garlic – deliciousness for an incredibly low price. If you can believe it, restaurants charge $17 or more per pound of mussels, whereas you can purchase them for as little as $2 a pound to cook at home! Outrageous! Not to mention the fact that you can be assured that your mussels are clean and fresh before cooking – not the case when you eat them out. If ever there was a case for cooking at home, this is it. Include this recipe on the menu for your next date night and savor the simple pleasure of a shared dish and company close at hand. It’s a dying art, I tell you.
Steamed Mussels with Tarragon and Shallots
2 lbs. of mussels, scrubbed of barnacles
3 tbs. of butter
2 cl. of garlic, smashed
1 c. of dry white wine
bunch of tarragon
2 tbs. of dijon mustard
1/2 c. of cream
salt and pepper
Check mussels to make sure that they are still alive – mussels should close after you tap them on the counter or rap them a bit with your finger. Clean mussels of any grit or barnacles on the shells and put into a large bowl. Fill bowl with cold water and let the mussels sit for a half an hour. This allows them time to expel any sand or grit – you’ll actually hear the mussels bubbling around in the water.
In a large pot or huge skillet, chuck in 2 tbs. of butter and melt on low. Turn up the heat to medium and add shallots and garlic. Cook until translucent and then crank the heat to high. Dump in wine, tarragon, and mussels and cover the pot. Cook 5-6 minutes or until mussels open up. Remove mussels from the pot and set aside, discarding any mussels that didn’t open in the cooking process. Boil sauce down, whisking in mustard and cream. Allow to reduce by 1/4 and then taste for salt and pepper. Pour sauce over mussels and serve, making sure to sop up the sauce with bread or crisp fries.