16 September 2014

Let's Try to Eat French, Steamed Mussels

Have you ever cooked mussels before? I confess, before we went to Honfleur, I'd never really had a big bowlful much less prepared them. Somehow things in shells seem rather daunting. But les moules are a big thing here in Normandy. And when I was at the market the other day, I noticed all of the older women clucking about this giant pile of mussels. Curious, I held back and pretended I was looking at a jar of jam and watched how the scene played out.

On a giant platform, a massive amount of mussels were displayed on a bed of ice. The ladies would grab a plastic sack and with the provided metal scoop, fill up their bag with the amount they deemed appropriate. Tie off the sack, walk over to the fish man, and hand over the goods for him to weigh and determine the price.

It seemed easy enough. And turns out it was! I completely guessed on the amount needed and when the fish man asked me a follow-up question, I responded with c'est tout (meaning "that's all," my go to response when I have no clue) and he seemed content with that.

Back at home I did a little research on prep and simply spent about fifteen minutes at the sink rinsing, scrubbing off any bits or barnacles, and removing "beards." Sounds weird and gross but kind of like wet, briny corn-silk. No biggie. Grab, yank towards the hinge point, discard. And if any are chipped or don't close when you tap them, this means they aren't alive anymore and you should toss them. (I kind of forgot they were "live" and it was a little bananas to see them slowly open and shut!) Finally, I placed in a bowl of water, covered, and kept in the fridge 'til dinner.

When evening came and it was cookin' time, I loosely followed a recipe online. You can leave out the cream if you want, but I used Creme Crue Sineux (from our landlord's family farm!), and I used half wine and have (hard) cider, because that's another big thing here.

Honestly, it's about the easiest thing ever and it cooks in just under 10 minutes if they are small like these.

And when you take off the lid and they have all opened through some culinary magic, it's so exciting!

It's also exciting to eat with your fingers, pile up all the empty shells in an extra bowl, and eat lots of crusty bread to soak up the juices and make your belly extra happy.

So, have you cooked these before? Could you convince your kids that they aren't too creepy looking? What about oysters (I have no idea on this one!)? Do shellfish scare you? Do you have other kinds of recipes that are super simple, tasty, and fun to serve a family? 


  1. Mussels totally freak me out. My mom and my grandmother are both allergic, so I've always assumed I'm allergic, too. I've never even tried one!

  2. Oooo...the recipe looks wonderful. Put them on the menu, for when I come to visit!

  3. Replies
    1. Jill, I promise you it was the easiest 5euro risk I've ever taken!

  4. Incredible! You can't go wrong with fresh seafood!

  5. I had mussels for the first time, on our first day in Paris last year. I was the adventurous one at the table, and really wasn't sure what I was ordering since I don't read French, but I was glad it all worked out and the flavour was very good. I haven't tried them at home though; might have to look into that.

  6. Such fun! On our last anniversary at the coast, my hubs made the most delicious mussels -- just the right spice, I think even a little bacon fat (I know!) for good measure in the "roux." We do love seafood, but I've never thought to make these at home. Anna, I cannot tell you what joy it is to follow along on your adventures -- the sweet, hard, uncomfortable, beautiful...all of it! Cannot wait to see the rest of your incredible home. I showed the girls some of your last posts, and they all ooh-ed and aah-ed with me. We're mighty smitten with old things around here. Love to you, dear one. (And please let your dear Lucette know that my girl will get back to her soon. :) )

  7. I loved this post! Love the photos, too. You are so adventurous, I love it.
    ps. put them on the menu for your mom but leave them off for me (although I'll take the bread, lol).