This is the best time of year for shellfish in France, and of all types one of the most beloved is the humble mussel. Moules marinière — mussels steamed in white wine — are joyously consumed throughout the country, particularly in northern regions where they rank among the most popular dishes. They are as easy to prepare as they are tasty, and make a fine lunch or a lively starter to a more ambitious meal.
Moules marinière / Mussels steamed in white wine
And why marinière? The word means mariner-style or, more loosely, prepared in the manner of seafarers and fishermen, who cook the mussels straight from the sea (and have most likely been doing so since the invention of fire in prehistoric times).
There are many variations on this theme — with or without cream added to the broth, with or without curry or saffron. Sometimes bacon is added, sometimes tomatoes or peppers. In Normandy or Brittany, you may find mussels steamed in hard cider instead of wine. But I prefer the original, in which minced onion is sautéed in butter before the mussels are added to the sizzling pot and steamed open in dry white wine. A sprinkling of parsley completes the dish. Fabulous.
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And happy cooking!