Make us your home page

Escape to taste of France with Julia Child's mussels simmered in wine

Every time we have Moules à La Marinière for dinner it feels so elegant. As if we are in France, eating mussels very much the way Julia and Paul Child would have. The recipe comes, of course, from Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Related News/Archive

In Julia Child's masterpiece of a cookbook, she dedicates several pages to mussels, starting with this simple and fresh preparation. Mussels are steamed for a few minutes with wine, shallots, parsley, thyme and butter. The buttery, herbal sauce infused with the juices of mussels at the bottom of the pot — you'll need a spoon and plenty of bread for that.

In her ode to moules, Julia says: "Mussels, with their long, oval, blue-black shells and delicious pink-orange flesh are often called the poor man's oyster." And yet, it always feels quite luxurious when we make these. If you asked me how many times I'd served either at home, well, it's mussels 5, oysters 0.

Her recipe serves six to eight, but we cut it down for two. We used 2 pounds of mussels at $3.99 a pound. Not bad. And the guys working behind the seafood counter are always the chattiest, so there's that.

After some chopping and preparing, it's just a few minutes before dinner is ready. Child recommends soaking the mussels for quite a while before cooking, and we've done this before. We even tried adding a bit of flour to the soaking water, hoping the mussels would eat and fatten up just a bit more, but now I skip the soaking step. Most mussels you'll find at a grocery store are farm-raised, and they're not carrying as much grit as Child's mussels would have. Just rinse them under cool running water.

There is the matter of debearding the mussels. Not a big deal. Wrestling with the mussels is kind of fun. Wipe down a mussel and find the brown tuft of hairs sticking out one side. Tug firmly and yank off the beard. Some are bigger than others. If the mussel isn't giving it up, use a paper towel for a better grip.

Let's not forget the wine. I prefer a muscadet as it's a classic pairing with shellfish, and it's my favorite white wine at the moment. The taste is clean and crisp, and it's what I prefer to cook the mussels in, too.

Pick up the wine and mussels on your way home, and you're halfway there. This is good enough for the weekend but entirely reasonable on a weeknight. I'm not spending tonight in the South of France, and I don't think you are either, but serve this dinner on the patio and it's not hard to pretend.

Ileana Morales is a writer who cooks in a small apartment kitchen in Tampa with boyfriend Danny Valentine, an education reporter for the Tampa Bay Times. For more of their kitchen adventures, visit Ileana's blog, . She can be reached at


Moules à La Marinière

2 pounds mussels, debearded and rinsed

1 cup dry white wine, a muscadet is great

¼ cup minced shallots or green onions or finely minced onions

A couple of parsley sprigs

½ teaspoon thyme

Dash of black pepper

3 tablespoons butter, plus more for serving

1 or 2 teaspoons flour

½ cup roughly chopped parsley

French bread

Place the mussels in a large bowl, discarding any with cracked shells or ones that won't close after being firmly tapped a few times on the counter.

Bring all but the last two ingredients to a boil in a Dutch oven or large pot. Give it a quick stir to melt the butter and blend the flour. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, letting some of the alcohol evaporate. Add the mussels and immediately cover. Frequently shake the pot to toss the mussels, making sure to hold down tightly on the cover and the sides of the pot. Shake it up and down a bit to really move the mussels around. After 3 to 5 minutes, the shells will swing open, as Julia says, and the mussels are done.

Use a ladle or large spoon to divide the mussels between two large, wide soup bowls. Pour the liquid in the pot over the mussels, and reserve some in a small bowl for easy dipping. Sprinkle the parsley over the mussels. Serve immediately with French bread, butter, and a fork and spoon.

Serves 2.

Source: Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child

Escape to taste of France with Julia Child's mussels simmered in wine 04/30/13 [Last modified: Monday, April 29, 2013 4:55pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 21 fun places to escape the heat and chill indoors in Tampa Bay


    A simple walk down the street this summer can feel like it takes years. With the humidity and the Florida sun blazing, no amount of time feels like enough to cool off in summer. To help you regulate, our critics and writers came up with a few places that encourage lingering for just ... a few ... more ... …

  2. On the Camino de Santiago, Day 21: Tears of love and parting mark the beginning of the final leg of a pilgrim's journey.


    Day 21: León to Hospital de Orbigo: 32.6 km, 8.75 hours. Total for Days 1-21 = 498 km (309 miles)

  3. Four chopped salads that are quick, easy and tasty


    When I'm in need of a summertime "grab and run" meal that has extreme flavor and crunch, chopped salads are my answer. The five I turn to most are easy to pack and don't require cooking.

    Spicy Beet and Carrot Coleslaw.
  4. That one time when Madonna wasn't burning up the charts


    Hot enough for ya? From the constant heat of Florida to the Midwest scorchers and finally the triple-digit temperatures in the Southwest, 2017 has been another year of burning up, but it's nothing new as in the '80s we were Burning Up with Madonna.

  5. Five ideas for cooking with ground turkey


    I rarely cook with ground beef. Ground turkey became the go-to ground protein in my kitchen years ago. As meats go, it's pretty ideal: not a ton of raw meat juices, easy enough to cook in a pinch, more flavor than ground chicken. I sub turkey in for just about any recipe that calls for ground beef, except on …

    Siraracha Turkey Skewers are accompanied by jasmine rice and carrot-cucumber slaw.