Mussels are one of my FAVORITE meals, so it was only natural for me to make it one of my first weekends living in Florida! When my sister said she had some bread from The French Pantry (amazing bakery in Jax), the accompanying meal was obvious – something with a delectable broth to soak the bread! I’ve had various preparations, but the below recipe is the best, in my opinion – you really can’t mess it up! Butter, garlic, white wine, shallots… all of the deliciously simple flavors that combined make a sensational broth. My mouth is watering just thinking about it! The below proportions were slightly “eye-balled”, so just taste as you go and adjust to your liking. Enjoy!
3 lbs Fresh Mussels
½ cup Flour
Water (enough to cover for cleaning – directions below)
3 tbsp Unsalted Butter
1 large Shallot, diced
4 cloves Garlic, minced
1 cup Dry White Wine (I like Sauvignon Blanc, and always have it in the house)
1 cup Water
2 large Lemons, for Zest and Juice
½ tsp Red Pepper Flakes
4-5 sprigs of Fresh Thyme
¼ cup Milk or Cream (optional)
Salt & Pepper
BREAD (I like a good French baguette)
First, the key in making good mussels is not killing them before you make them! Most fishmongers will give you directions, but I recommend buying them as close to cooking time as possible. The key to not killing these shellfish is to not cut off their air supply, and keep them cold. About 30 minutes before you’re going to start cooking, put the fresh mussels in a large bowl with the flour, and cover with water from the sink. Make sure that the mussels are completely covered. With a spoon or your hands, mix around the mussels into the floury water. Let sit for roughly 25-20 minutes. What does this do, you might ask? Well, mussels are full of sand – if you’ve ever had gritty mussels, they are GROSS. So, this process forces the mussels to cough up the sand that they have in them. Easy cleaning!
While the mussels are soaking/cleaning, I like to use this time to prep. Mince the garlic, and dice the shallot – keep them separated. Next, zest the two lemons. Make sure to only get the yellow coating… the white part underneath is quite bitter! Wash the thyme and pull out all other ingredients. Get your big pot ready – make sure you use one with a lid.
When 25 or so minutes have passed, use a slotted spoon (or your hands) to remove the mussels. Do not pour out the flour/water mixture and drain the mussels in a strainer, as that water is now full of sand! I like to place the mussels directly into a strainer, and then dump the flour/water out once everything has been removed. The sand settles to the bottom, so you want to keep it away from your cleaned shellfish. Rinse the mussels in the strainer, and set aside. You’re ready to cook! This meal goes quickly!
Over medium heat, melt the butter. Toss in the shallots, and stir until softened, about 1-2 minutes. Next, add in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Add in the lemon zest, wine, cup of water, juice of the lemons, milk or cream (if desired), thyme sprigs, red pepper flakes, and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Stir everything together and bring to a simmer. Once the mixture starts simmering, add in the mussels. Cover and steam for about 3-5 minutes, or until they are all opened up. Divide the mussels into bowls (this recipe should make enough for 3-4 people). Then, make sure to add in as much juice as possible – this is the best part! Feel free to negate the individual servings, and just put the pot on a table, or even pour into a shallow serving platter. Crack open a bottle of Rosé and Enjoy!!