The Best Moules Marinières (Sailor-Style Mussels) Recipe
Classic French moules marinières: quick and easy one-pot cooking at its finest. [Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]
A pot of classic French Moules Marinières is fast food at its best. Made with fresh, inexpensive ingredients that still seem celebratory, this dish comes together in around 15 minutes from start to finish. Make sure to serve it with the rest of the wine left in the bottle and with plenty of toasted bread for dipping into the garlicky, briny broth. While the traditional version from Normandy is made with cider, a dry white wine will work wonderfully as well.
Why this recipe works:
- Slowly sweating a trio of alliums—leek, shallot, and garlic—develops their milder flavors while mellowing out their harsh edges.
- Mussels cook in no time flat, adding their own briny liquid to form a uniquely savory sauce that is ideal for dipping bread into.
- By removing the mussels immediately after cooking and finishing the sauce with lemon juice, parsley, butter, and optional mayonnaise or crème fraîche, we can create a rich, creamy, emulsified sauce without overcooking the mussels.
Note: Examine mussels before using. If they’re gritty or have lots of beards (it’ll look like bits of hair coming out from between their shells), scrub them well under cold water and pull out the beards by grabbing them and pulling towards the hinge-end of the mussels. Farm-raised mussels are generally quite clean when they are sold.
Discard and cracked mussels or open mussels that don’t close when tapped with another mussel.
Mayonnaise is not essential for this dish, but it does add extra richness and lots of flavor, particularly if served alongside for dipping mussels into. When using mayonnaise for this dish, be sure to use fresh homemade mayonnaise—store-bought mayonnaise will not combine with the sauce properly. I like to add extra garlic and substitute half of the canola oil for extra-virgin olive oil when making mayonnaise for mussels.
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 small leek, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
- 1 small shallot, thinly sliced
- 4 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 bay leaves
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup hard dry cider or white wine
- 2 pounds mussels (see note)
- 2 to 3 tablespoons homemade mayonnaise (see note), crème fraîche, or heavy cream (optional)
- 1 tablespoon juice and 1 teaspoon grated zest from 1 lemon
- 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
- Additional homemade mayonnaise for serving (optional, see note)
- 1 loaf rustic sourdough bread, thickly sliced, drizzled with olive oil, and broiled until heavily toasted
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add leeks, shallot, garlic, and bay leave. Season lightly with salt and heavily with black pepper and cook, stirring, until vegetables are very soft but not browned, about 10 minutes.
Increase heat to high and add cider or wine. Bring to a boil and let reduce by half, about 2 minutes. Add mussels, stir, cover, and cook, shaking pan constantly and peeking every 30 seconds to stir. As soon as all the mussels are open, transfer mussels to a bowl using tongs. Place pan lid over bowl to keep mussels warm.
Remove from heat and whisk in remaining butter along with mayonnaise or crème fraîche (if using). Return mussels to pot, add parsley, lemon juice, and lemon zest, stir to combine, then transfer to a warm serving bowl. Serve immediately with additional mayonnaise (if using) and broiled bread.
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