Moules Marinières is a popular Belgian dish with a French name, which literally translates to “mussels, fisherman-style.” A specialty in Brittany as well, the meal is traditionally served with a glass of wine, and today it’s custom to add a side of pommes frites. This version uses fresh steamed mussels, plenty of veggies and a blend of Eastern and Western ingredients to please even the most discerning global palette.
In the summer months, many locavores enjoy cultivating “wild mussels” around the reefs of the Long Island Sound, from Oyster Bay to Montauk. But P.E I. blue mussels (from Prince Edward Island, Canada) are a delectable alternative for cooks that would prefer to head to the seafood market to harvest their ingredients.
There is nothing more mouth-watering than a huge bowl of artistically presented mussels, but the fun part is eating them! A small fork will do for removing the plump meat from the shells or, better yet, opt for the shell-as-utensil method. Use an empty shell to nudge out the mussel meat while holding both with your fingers. Extra sturdy napkins are recommended!
Serving Size: 4
There are two parts to creating this dish:
1. Make a robust infused broth and steam the mussels in it.
2. Sauté flavorings in a pot, then add the mussels and the broth. Serve over rice noodles.
Flavor influences and nuances:
WESTERN: Tomatoes, Bacon, Garlic, Leeks, Fennel, Tarragon and Butter.
EASTERN: Ginger, Lemongrass, Szechuan Peppercorns and Rice Noodles
2 pounds fresh mussels, scrubbed and debearded*
1 1/2 cups fruity, dry wine, such as Chenin Blanc
1/4 cups Mirepoix veggies, large chunks (carrot, onion, celery)
1 large knob fresh ginger, cleaned
1/2 medium stalk lemongrass
1 tablespoon neutral oil**
3 strips bacon, chopped, or turkey bacon (use no nitrates)
2 medium cloves fresh garlic, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup fresh leeks, cleaned well, sliced thinly
1/2 medium carrot, cleaned, julienned
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground
1 dash turmeric
1/4 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns, ground (optional but nice)
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper flakes, or to taste
3/4 cup diced fire roasted canned tomatoes, drained—save 1/2 cup juice
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 tablespoons fresh tarragon, cleaned, torn with fingers
2 tablespoons unsalted organic butter
2 cups cooked rice noodles
Place mussels in a large bowl in the sink. Cover with cold water. Swish around in the water to release dirt. Let stand about 1 hour. Strain, scrub and debeard mussels*.
Make stock and steam mussels: In a large, heavy pot, add wine and any mirepoix (aromatics). Add the ginger and lemon grass. Bring to a simmer, covered. Turn off heat and let the flavors infuse for 30 minutes. This step can be done ahead of time.
Heat the mixture again, and when it reaches a boil, add the mussels and cover. Cook over a slow boil for 3 to 5 minutes until the mussels have opened. Discard any unopened mussels. Uncover and cool. Remove the mussels from the broth, and strain the broth though two layers of cheesecloth, saving the broth!
In a large, heavy pot, heat 1 T. oil and add bacon and cook, stirring over moderate heat until very crispy. Remove the bacon, leave the oil for the next step. Add the next 7 ingredients (garlic through pepper flakes). Stir well and cook over low heat for two minutes.
Add the tomatoes, the juice and tomato paste. Raise heat to high, cook, stirring all the time, pan-roasting the tomatoes. This will add a lot of flavor. Add the strained broth, bring to a boil. Reduce, uncovered until well flavored and a little thickened. Add the steamed mussels, stir up to blend all. Swirl in the butter and half of the tarragon, and taste for seasonings.
Place a portion of rice noodles in each serving bowl. Top with a portion of mussels and broth. Garnish reserved crispy bacon and tarragon and serve.
*Debearding is easy—on the inside straight side of the mussel, feel for any beards (hairy areas). Pull out and discard.
**with concerns about GMOs and processing of oils, use a vegetable oil which has not been chemically treated, this is called “expeller pressed.”
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