Although our minds recall France when we eat moules marinières (“mariner’s mussels”), this classic dish is originally a specialty from Belgium. It was made famous in Lille, a French city on the Belgian border, where they have a huge “Moules Frites Fest” every year. During this festival, held the first weekend in September, attendees create mountains of mussel shells in the streets. Serve this in deep soup bowls with home-made frites (French-fried potatoes), or lots of crusty bread.
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• 1 shallot, finely chopped
• 1 clove of garlic
• 1 bay leaf
• 3 sprigs of thyme (optional)
• Lemon zest (optional)
• 1 tablespoon of butter
• 1 handful of fresh parsley, chopped (reserve about
half for garnish)
• 200 ml of dry white wine
• 1kg of fresh mussels, washed and scraped
Place the butter, onion, shallot, and garlic clove in a large pan with a lid. Make ’em sweat. Add the mussels and white wine, thyme, parsley, lemon zest, and bay leaf, and season with salt and pepper.
Cover. Shake the pan occasionally, and cook for two to three minutes, or until the shells open. (Do not overcook: Seafood tastes terrible when it is overdone, so watch it like a hawk.)
Remove mussels from pan and set aside. You’ll see the “liquor” will have doubled: You can strain if you don’t like the onions and shallots in your sauce, or use as is—but be careful, there will be some grit in the bottom of the pan. (I usually add some heavy cream to thicken it, or you can add a dash of curry or saffron, depending on the flavor sauce you want. As always, you are the chef!) Reduce on a high heat, and then the sauce pour over the mussels already in the serving dish—or directly into the individual serving bowls. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve immediately.
(Any shells that are unopened should be discarded.) Enjoy with a dry white wine, or, as in Belgium, with a beer. Cheers!
Although born in Dublin, Ireland, chef Jean Doherty spent most of her life in Lyon, France, the gastronomical capital of the world. Together with Vero, her partner of 25 years, Jean has owned and run multiple restaurants including Fort Lauderdale’s Le Patio.