Moules Marinières: A Classic French Preparation For Mussels In White Wine
If you’re searching for a celebratory French meal, look no further than classic Moules Marinières! Mussels in white wine sauce is truly luxurious, and best served family-style, straight from the pot, which is both fun and aesthetically beautiful.
The broth is garlicky, creamy, and briny (from the natural juices of the shellfish) all at the same time. It’s saucy goodness! Make sure to grab a crusty French baguette for serving — we like to slice and toast it, then rub with a halved garlic clove!
Cooking steamed mussels in white wine cream sauce takes about 20 minutes, start to finish, and that’s if you’re taking your sweet time. Usually we can get this on the table in 15 minutes flat, including prep time. That is a winner, both for busy weeknights as well as holidays and celebrations!
Ingredients For Mussels In White Wine Sauce
- 2 pounds mussels: Fresh mussels are usually sold in 2 lb bags over ice. We recommend 1 lb mussels per person, increase the quantity as needed. You can fit about 2 lbs of mussels in one large skillet with a tight fitting lid.
- Light, neutral oil: we recommend grapeseed oil, canola oil, or vegetable oil.
- Shallot: Minced and cooked in butter, this adds a sweet mild onion flavor.
- Garlic: Fresh minced garlic adds the best flavor!
- Fennel: We love the anise flavor of cooked fennel, and it pairs beautifully with fresh tarragon.
- Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper: To season the mussels, veggies, and sauce!
- Dry white wine: A classic moules marinières literally translates into mussels in white wine — choose a wine that’s good enough to drink, as the flavor will intensify when cooked.
- Sherry or vermouth: We love the additional depth this adds to the steamed mussels. If you don’t have or don’t want to use, simply increase the overall amount of white wine.
- Fresh herbs: We love tarragon and chives, but fresh flat-leaf parsley works too!
- Unsalted butter: This gets swirled into the sauce at the end. As it slowly melts, it will thicken the sauce and give it a silky smooth texutre.
- Crème fraîche: Creamy and tangy! If you can’t find crème fraîche, use heavy cream instead.
And while not mandatory, we highly recommend having a crusty French baguette on standby for serving. You’ll want to soak up every drop of that delicious sauce! Though if you’re gluten-free, simply omit the bread — moules marinières is naturally gluten-free!
Lemon wedges and/or lemon zest are great for serving too!
How To Clean Mussels
Fresh mussels are pretty easy to come by where we live in the Tri-State area. Buy them from a local fish monger or market that sells high quality, fresh seafood. Mussels are sold alive and typically in 1 or 2 lb netted bundles. They should be in an open bag you bring them home (so they can breathe – they’re alive!), at which point you can pop them into the fridge in a shallow bowl with a damp paper towel on top until needed. But please buy them the same day you plan to cook and eat them!
To clean mussels: scrub mussels under cool running water, then place them in a large bowl of cold water, allowing any grit or sand to sink to the bottom. Let the mussels hang out for 10-15 minutes before draining. It’s the same process as when you purge clams. With mussels, however, you’ll want to check for a beard (little hairs coming out of the hinge-end of the shell).
It’s really easy to remove beards from mussels. Simply grip the hairs and pull firmly away from the shell. You can also use a paring knife to help grab and yank them out. Discard and return to the cool water until ready to cook. And don’t worry if there are a few barnacles on the mussel shells — it won’t affect the taste of the mussel itself!
How To Make Moules Marinières At Home
First, sweat the shallots in butter. This method of cooking over medium heat (versus a higher heat) will mellow out the onion flavor that shallots have and add a slight sweetness.
Next, add garlic and sliced fennel to the pot, then season with salt and pepper. After a couple minutes, increase the temperature to high, then add the liquid: dry white wine and sherry (or Vermouth). You can also just use all white wine if that’s what you’ve got! Add fresh tarragon in as well. Bring to a boil, then reduce by half. This will take about 3 minutes.
Time to add the cleaned mussels! Add the mussels directly to the pot, give them a quick stir, then place the lid on top. Let them cook for 5-7 minutes. Really important that you remove any mussels that remain tightly sealed. Those mussels were dead when they went into the pot, so don’t eat them.
Remove the pan from the heat, transfer mussels to a bowl with a slotted spoon, then add the cubed butter and crème fraîche. Swirl the pan to emulsify them into the sauce. Return the mussels to the pot, then garnish with fresh chives and serve with baguette!
Tips For Best Results
Mussels in white wine cream sauce is seriously easy, but for best results we recommend the following:
- Before cooking, examine the mussels. Discard any that are cracked. If any mussels are opened, tap them lightly or try to gently press the shell together. If they snap shut, they’re alive and well and safe to eat. If they remain open, discard and do not eat.
- When the dish is finished, only eat open mussels! If any mussels remain tightly sealed or closed after steaming, they were dead before they went into the pan. Discard.
- Add the crème fraîche and butter off the heat to emulsify into a rich sauce. Otherwise, the sauce will break.
If you don’t have crème fraîche, the white wine cream sauce can be finished with heavy cream (and butter) instead!
There is something about a big bowl of steamed mussels in white wine cream sauce that transports us to cozy French bistros and we are here for it. Prefer moules frites? Make some of these unbelievably crispy french fries! Seriously, my husband makes these at least a few times a year and they are so, so worth the effort, trust me!
If you make this Moules Marinières recipe, please let us know by leaving a review and rating below! And if you are looking for another stellar mussels recipe, be sure to grab our free date night ebook and check out our Mussels with Coconut Milk and Thai Chilies!
Our Remaining 2021 Feast Of The Seven Fishes Menu:
- Salmon Rillettes
- Crab Stuffed Shrimp
- Baked Cod With Panko
- Broiled Scallops With Garlic Butter Sauce
- Pan Seared Chilean Sea Bass with Lemon Beurre Blanc
- Baked Crab Legs
Check out the other Feast of the Seven Fishes recipes in our roundup!
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More seafood recipes to try!
- Scallop Crudo
- Crab Stuffed Shrimp
- Crispy Pan Seared Salmon with Lemon Parmesan Sauce
- Tuna Tartare Recipe
- Pan Seared Halibut with Chili Garlic Oil
- Salmon Piccata
- Large skillet or pan with tight fitting lid
- 2 lbs fresh mussels cleaned, see note below
- 5 Tbsp unsalted butter COLD, cubed, divided
- 1 large shallot minced
- 3 large garlic cloves finely chopped
- 1 large (or 2 medium) fennel bulbs thinly sliced
- ½ tsp Kosher salt
- pinch of freshly ground black pepper
- 1 ¾ cup dry white wine
- 2 Tbsp sherry vinegar or Vermouth
- 4 sprigs fresh tarragon
- 2 Tbsp creme fraiche or heavy cream
- 2 Tbsp chives thinly sliced
- Baguette for serving
- Sweat the shallots. Melt 1 Tbsp unsalted butter in a large skillet over medium heat (no higher). Add 1 minced shallot then cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Sauté the fennel. Raise the heat to medium-high, then add 3 cloves minced garlic and sliced fennel. Season with ½ teaspoon Kosher salt and a pinch of black pepper. Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until fennel has softened.
- Add the liquid. Increase the temperature to high, then add 1 ¾ cup dry white wine, 2 Tbsp sherry (or Vermouth), and fresh tarragon. Bring to a boil, then reduce by half. This will take about 3 minutes.
- Steam the mussels. Add the cleaned, rinsed mussels directly to the pot, give them a quick stir, then place the lid on top. Cook for 5-7 minutes, undisturbed. When you remove the lid, discard any mussels that remain tightly sealed, as these were dead before cooking.
- Finish the sauce. Remove the pan from the heat, transfer mussels to a bowl with a slotted spoon, then add the remaining 4 Tbsp cold, cubed butter and 2 Tbsp crème fraîche. Swirl the pan to emulsify them into the sauce. Taste and adjust seaosning, if needed. Return the cooked mussels to the pot, then garnish with fresh chives and serve with baguette!
- To clean mussels: scrub under cool running water, then place in a large bowl of cold water. The grit will sink to the bottom. Let sit for 10-15 minutes before draining. Next, check for a beard (the little hairs hanging out of the hinge-end of the shell). To remove, grip the hairs and pull firmly away from the shell.
- Don’t have creme fraiche? Substitute with equal parts heavy cream.
- If you don’t have sherry vinegar or Vermouth, 2 cups (total) white wine.
- Served 2 as an entrée or 4 as an appetizer!