This is the archetypal mussel dish, and deservedly so since it is almost impossible to improve it. Variations involve only different herbs and flavorings in the steaming liquid. Serve this dish as a first course or light main course with plenty of crusty French bread for dipping. Pour a crisp, cool country white wine, such as a Muscadet or Sancerre.
– 6 pounds mussels.
– 1 cup dry white wine.
– 3 shallots, minced.
– 1 clove garlic, minced and then crushed with the side of the knife (optional).
– Pinch of chopped fresh or dried thyme (optional).
– 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley.
– 4 tablespoons butter (optional).
Step 1:Scrub the mussels, push the sides in opposite directions to eliminate dead ones, rinse thoroughly, and set aside.
Step 2:Select a pot large enough so that the mussels will reach no higher than two-thirds up the sides. Combine the wine, shallots, garlic, and thyme in the pot, cover, bring to a simmer over low heat, and simmer for 5 minutes.
Step 3:Add the mussels all at once, cover the pot, raise the heat to high, bring to a boil, and boil for 2 minutes. Holding the lid in place with a kitchen towel, shake the pot with a rotating motion to redistribute the mussels, so those that were on the bottom are now on the top. Steam for 2 minutes more, and then check to see if all the mussels have opened. They should be fully opened and each mussel meat should be in one shell, not stretched out between two. If they are not fully cooked, they will tear as they are pulled out of the shells.
Step 4:Use a spider or skimmer to transfer the mussels to warmed bowls. Check the liquid in the bottom of the pot. If it contains grit, carefully pour it into a saucepan, leaving the grit behind (don’t worry about the shallots). Add the parsley to the steaming liquid, simmer for 1 minute, and whisk in the butter. Pour the liquid over the mussels in the bowls and serve.