Sometimes the simplest joys are the greatest. Take today, a dreary rainy/sleety rare Monday off work. My big plans for the day were to clean my apartment, go to the bank, make a return at Home Depot and do a bit of grocery shopping on the way back. So exciting, right? Except that it kind of was, but only in a way a true foodie could appreciate.
As I passed by the seafood counter at my local Whole Foods on steroids, a bag of shiny black mussels caught my eye. I love mussels but rarely make them. In fact, I don’t think I’ve made them since taking advanced fish in culinary school (and yes, that’s a real class that I had nightmares about for months after completing). But today I was being called to them; I just had to buy some.
I bought one pound, which seemed like the right amount for me to enjoy for a late lunch, and grabbed a bottle of Spanish dry white wine that a sales associate recommended along with some fresh thyme and a small baguette. It had been so long since I made this that I couldn’t remember exactly what to put in the broth, but that seemed like the right place to start.
When I got home I consulted a few of my favorite cookbooks and found two recipes similar to what I remembered, one in Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table and the other in an old notebook from class, both emulating the traditional method for steaming mussels that resulted in a delicious and super simple dish.
One thing I wanted to point out was that I didn’t use any pepper in the mussels. Not using pepper on shellfish is one of those ingrained lessons from that same advanced fish class that gave me nightmares, and one I still follow to a tee.
The only place I went wrong was that I didn’t toast the baguette. I was so eager to eat that I let that part go. Please don’t make the same mistake – toast your bread and use it sop up all the delicious broth!
Here’s how I made Super Simple Steamed Mussels:
Super Simple Steamed Mussels, adapted from Around My French Table – serves 1 or 2
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 shallot, peeled and minced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1 sprig fresh thyme, leaves only, chopped
1 small bay leaf
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 pound mussels
Sliced baguette, toasted
Heat the oil in a large pot set over medium-low heat. Add the shallot and garlic and cook until soft, about 5 minutes, stirring often.
Add a good pinch of salt, thyme, bay leaf and the wine and simmer gently for 2 minutes.
Add the mussels and stir. Cover the pot and increase the heat to high until the liquid boils, then decrease to low and simmer until the mussels open, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat.
Spoon the mussels and broth into 1 or 2 bowls, depending on if you want to share or not, and enjoy with toasted bread and a glass of the same wine used to cook the mussels.