The beauty of this dish is that it’s a) SO simple, and b) SO delicious, and c) pairs with just about any dry or dry-ish white wine that you happen to be flirtatiously or deeply in love with. It’s perfect for anytime gatherings – indoors or out – and never fails to impress. It’s easy on the budget. And to top it all, mussels are protein-rich and full of vitamin B12 and iron.
1 oz Butter
1 cup Onion (or shallots), finely chopped
3 Cloves of garlic, crushed
2 cups White wine
4 lbs Fresh or fresh frozen mussels, scrubbed with beards removed
Freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt (optional)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat, add onions or shallots and garlic and cook for 5 minutes, stirring until the onions or shallots are golden. Add wine and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add mussels and cook for 5 minutes. Discard any mussels that have not opened by this time. Remove mussels from liquid with a slotted spoon and place in serving dish. Season the sauce to taste with black pepper and kosher salt, pour over the mussels, and sprinkle with parsley. If preferred the mussels can also be served over linguine or other pasta. To eat, scoop the mussels out of the shell with a spoon or fork or by using a shell as a utensil or – just use your fingers. Don’t forget some crusty bread to soak up all that good liquid.
Easy, no? I have fond memories of enjoying mussels like this in Rheims in the Champagne area. Joining a few friends we stopped at a large restaurant that was packed with hundreds of people. The menu offered many choices but everybody as far as the eye could see was enjoying the house specialty – mussels in white wine sauce served in buckets. I’d never seen so many mussels in one place.
Once in New Zealand the dish was prepared for us with two tasty additions. First our hosts added one finely chopped chili pepper in with the onions and garlic, and second they sprinkled lots of fresh cilantro over everything upon serving. Absolutely delicious!
What wine should be used in preparing the liquid? As I said – any dry white wine you happen to like. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but of course it should be something you would be willing to drink and enjoy. I usually have two bottles of the chosen wine handy – which leaves a little over a bottle and a half to sip on while enjoying this paradigmatic and tasty treat.
Bill Stobbs, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits wine and spirits supervisor
Follow me on Twitter @abcwinebills