Wild Maine Mussels aka Johnny’s Blues. You should remember that name.
I can make a meal out of a bowl – or two – of mussels. Forget the restaurant entrée. I’ll take two servings of what is considered an appetizer.
On a recent trip to Baltimore, I enjoyed the best bowl of steamed mussels I’ve had in years served in an establishment best associated with burgers, nachos, and spicy chicken wings – a sports bar.
This particular restaurant lists the menu offering as “Classic Mussels” but according to the description, the dish is easily identified as prepared à la Marinière.
According to the Oxford Dictionary: Moules marinière (also Moules à la marinière) are mussels served in their shells and cooked in a wine and shallots sauce.
In my opinion, a certain “big name” seafood restaurant set the bar quite high when it came to their entrée of mussels. However, this generous (had to be a full quart and a half ) serving of mega-sized mussels has them beat by a country mile.
It did not have anything to do with the garlic infused white wine cream sauce. One might argue that there are as many ways of preparing it as there are cooks.
Both cream sauces are perfect for dipping baguette. Sopping up the sauce is a must.
One sauce was strictly white wine and cream based, well seasoned and good enough to eat by the soup spoonful. The other included little bits of tomato.
Take it from this home chef – use shallots not onions and “beaucoup” de garlic!
At first I balked at the thought of a chef adding tomatoes to a “Marinière” style sauce but it did not ruin the flavor in any way.
The element of surprise here was the size of the mussels. Needless to say, my next bit of research involved finding out what type of mussels were used to prepare the dish.
The last time I saw mussels comparable in size was in a dish served at a restaurant floating on the Bosphorus in Istanbul. It brought back wonderful memories but added to my determination.
Mussels that come 10 or 12 to a pound are quite large. They come from Massachusetts or Maine. Simple as that. Johnny’s Blues is one such variety. Here is a Maine Seafood Guide.
But… where can I buy them here in NOVA?
Their size! You can make a meal out of a plate full. None of this teeny tiny mussels often seen in restaurant dishes.
I prefer garlic to shallots when cooking mussels.
Chop two large shallots (or 4 or more finely chopped garlic cloves) into fine dice and toss into the butter. Cook on medium heat until translucent but not burned.
Chop 1/2 cup of fresh parsley into fine bits. Combine well.
Add enough white wine to the garlic and parsley (about 1/3 to 3/4 of a cup) to create a sauce. Add rich stock if you prefer.
On high heat, add the mussels to the pan in a single layer if possible. If you have more than a single layer, place a lid on the pan and toss to cook evenly.
This will also distribute the wine sauce through the mussels. Steam until the mussels open.
After serving, ladle more sauce over the mussels.
Slice a whole crispy baguette! You will eat the whole thing. Guaranteed.
Oh…before I forget. I bought Johnny’s Blues at Harris Teeter®. They came with Lagniappe! A few other mollusks were along for the ride. Every so often, I’ve also found them at Food Lion®!