This is potentially one of the more impressive dishes that you can serve someone while exerting a minimal amount of effort. It looks fancy AF, but requires very little active work (with the exception of cleaning the mussels, which you can get someone to do for you, but is also deeply satisfying in a hair-plucking kind of way). Seriously, your guests will be like “Did I suddenly get transported to a French bistro?” and you’ll be like “No, you’re still in my overpriced Vancouver apartment sitting 3 feet away from a vibrating washing machine and crusty bowl of dog food.”
For real though, if you’re a fan of mussels and of all things French, make these. You will probably be shocked, as I was, to discover that mussels are a very reasonably priced seafood to buy (taking the sting out of all those times you’ve bought prawns or halibut and left the store wincing in financial pain). And learning a skill like mussel de-bearding sounds very official and could give you something fun and quirky to put on that under-utilized part of your resume labeled “Additional Skills” (other than the lie most Canadians put in that section when we type “working knowledge of French”). So make these, invite over your fanciest friends, and update that resume while you’re at it.
BA’s Best: Steamed Mussels w/ Wine and Herbs
Taken directly from BA’s Best arsenal, with the most minor of tweaks here and there
3 tbsp olive oil
6 small shallots, thinly sliced
6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
2 cups dry white wine
5 lb mussels, checked, scrubbed and de-bearded as described here
6 tbsp (¾ stick) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill, tough stems discarded + more for serving
2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, tough stems discarded + more for serving
1 loaf crusty country bread, cut into thick slices (~1 inch)
Olive oil, for brushing
1 clove or garlic, peeled and cut in half
Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven or deep, wide-based pot set over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic, stirring occasionally and cooking until fragrant and translucent but not browned (about 5 minutes). Season the aromatics with a good pinch of salt. Add the wine and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half, roughly 4-5 minutes. Add the mussels, cover, and cook for 6-8 minutes, shaking the pot gently every so often to ensure that they all get a good bath in the wine mixture. The mussels are done as soon as all of the shells have opened. Discard any mussels with unopened shells after the 6-8 minutes are up.
While the mussels cook, grill the bread slices by heating a griddle pan or BBQ to high heat. As the grill heats, brush each side of the bread slices with olive oil. Lightly season each slice with salt. Grill the bread for 2-3 minutes per side, or until grill marks appear and the bread is golden and toasted. It helps to press the bread down when it first goes on the heat, either with a planchette or by pressing a plate down on top of each slice. When the bread comes off the heat, immediately rub each piece with the cut side of a garlic clove and place on a cooling rack.
Use a slotted spoon to transfer the mussels (not the broth) to 4 large, shallow bowls. Stir the butter cubes into the broth until melted. Add the dill and parsley, then taste and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Ladle generous servings of broth over the mussels and sprinkle with extra dill and parsley if desired. Serve hot with plenty of grilled bread and a smug grin of satisfaction on your face.