Moules Mariniere: Project Food Blog

sancerre moules

There’s an unmistakable crispness in the air this week, a crackly edge of chill under clear skies. I think we’ve arrived, folks: fall.

And I know I’ve been dragging my heels a bit, but I think I’m finally ready. Bring on the cinnamon and allspice, the warming bowls of soups and stick-to-your-ribs roasts and stews. I’m ready for you, chunky wool sweaters and roasted root vegetables.

Maybe it’s a relic of back-to-school days, or the shift of the seasons, but I tend to get a little reflective this time of year, taking stock of where I’ve been and where I’m headed. Everything feels really right this season, like I’m on the verge of something great.

And looking back, it’s been five months now since I launched this blog, a project that’s been one of the most creatively satisfying pursuits of my life. I’ve finally found a way to converge all of my interests: cooking, writing, entertaining, reading, design, recipe testing, photography, travel, spending time with friends. (If only this blog would go hiking with me, I’d have everything covered.) It gives me the space to geek out about food, and a way to put a little bit of beauty into the world (even if it’s just from my tiny little corner on the internet). I’m learning a lot and I’m really proud of what I’ve put together.

So for now and the foreseeable future, dear reader, you can find me here, Wednesdays and Saturdays, with a recipe, a story, some snapshots. If a trace of my passion for cooking and the pleasures of the table sticks with you, I’ll consider myself successful. If my posts inspire you to get into the kitchen, I’ll gladly put that notch on my belt. And if visiting here is just a bit of calm in your day and something pretty to look at for a moment or two, I’ll take that, too.

Enough about me, though, and let’s get on to the main event, shall we? Moules à la marinière, or mussels steamed in wine, which sounds fancy but isn’t.

mussels steamed in wine

Mussels call to mind off-season New England beaches at low tide and cozy French bistros with fogged-up windows. When steamed in wine, they’re just right for chilly, easing-into-fall evenings. It’s a classic, lusty dish that begs for a proper baguette for soaking up the broth; add some takeout frites dipped in homemade mayonnaise, and you might as well be dining in Montparnasse or Marais.

Julia Child’s recipe was the first one for mussels I ever tried at home, and I was so struck by how straightforward and simple it is. It’s the kind of unfussy preparation I always favor: fresh, uncomplicated scratch cooking that yields lots of flavor. I’ve added some garlic, salt and diced tomatoes, but all else is Julia’s.

Summer is (just barely) over, but that’s really not so bad now, is it? We have candlelight, fragrant bowls of inky-black mussels and a bottle of crisp, flinty Sancerre. Here’s to a beautiful, productive, food-happy fall. Here’s to thoughtful meals that highlight the season, savored with friends and family or enjoyed all by yourself. Cheers!

Moules Marinière (Mussels Steamed In Wine)
adapted from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking
serves two

  • 2 pounds live mussels
  • 1 C light, dry white wine
  • 1/4 C shallots, minced
  • 4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley + 1/4 C roughly chopped
  • 2 Tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 C diced tomatoes
  • bay leaf
  • pinch of freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 Tbsp butter, softened

Discard any cracked or open mussels. (Tap shells that are just slightly open and set aside for a few minutes; if they close, use them. If not, discard.) With a sharp paring knife, scrape off the fibrous “beard” from the side of the shell. Scrub shells under running water. Place in a bowl of cool water, enough to cover, with a 1/4 C flour. The mussels will plump up from their meal and disgorge any sand. Soak for about an hour, then rinse in cold water.

In an enameled dutch oven or large saucepan with a lid, heat the garlic, shallots and butter until they sizzle; sweat for 2 minutes. Add the wine, parsley sprigs, bay leaf, thyme, salt and pepper. Bring wine to a boil and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until some of the alcohol evaporates and its volume is slightly reduced.

Add the mussels. Cover and boil. With both hands, clamping your thumbs down over the lid to a avoid a spill, frequently toss the mussels with a jerky up-and-down motion so they move around and cook evenly. Toss the tomatoes in halfway through. Cook for five minutes until the mussels open.

With a ladle or skimmer, transfer the mussels to wide, shallow soup bowls. (Discard any mussels that didn’t open.) Ladle the liquid over the mussels, sprinkle with the chopped parsley and serve immediately with a baguette to sop up the broth.

PS: This post is my official getting-to-know-you entry and the first challenge (Ready, Set, Blog!) for Foodbuzz’s Project Food Blog 2010! It looks like an absolute ton of fun: 2,000 entrants, 10 creative challenges, an impressive panel of judges, one winner. I think I have what it takes! If you like, check out my Foodbuzz profile or Scarpetta Dolcetto’s Facebook page for more details. And cross your fingers, cross your toes…I’ll know on September 24th if I’ve advanced to the next round!

About scarpettakate

Scarpetta Dolcetto celebrates simple, seasonal, scratch home cookery.
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52 Responses to Moules Mariniere: Project Food Blog

  1. SFmatt says:

    two things i like best about Fall: the return of college football and my francophile wife rekindling her love of rich stews and soul-satisfying dishes like this one. (grumble, grumble…)

  2. Andy says:

    Nice mussel recipe. Coincidentially, I got an email from JEK inviting me to your blog- which I will accept. See you there.


  3. Jen (aka babalu) says:

    So excited to see Moules Marinière (my most favorite dish in the entire world!) in my inbox:) I wasn’t as lucky as Matt to taste but the pictures sure do please:) I will be sure to test this one out! And best of luck to the grand prize….can we vote? Cheers to your success and happiness:)

    • Babalu! Thank you for the note, my love! Unless I’m mistaken, voting is only open (starting Monday!) to the official judges and fellow Foodbuzz bloggers, but I can always use your cheerleading! Facebook users can “like” my Foodbuzz profile (go the the links in my PS) and/or become fans of Scarpetta Dolcetto, where I’ll bore everyone to tears with all the gory details. I’m really new to Foodbuzz, so keep your fingers crossed!! 🙂

  4. phoebe says:

    I adore Moules Mariniere. It has to be one of my favorite ‘go to’ weeknight dinners. Good Luck with PFB!!

  5. susie king says:

    Monday night for sure! can’t tell you how many recipes I’ve tried, but this one sounds like a winner

    • You’re a mussels connoisseur…can’t wait to see what you think of Julia’s version! Dad likes anise flavors, so you can add a splash of Pastis or chopped tarragon with the aromatics, too.

  6. Thank you for sharing your life with us.. I am loving this challenge. I posted my FBC this morning check it out and let me know what you think.

  7. sippitysup says:

    I came to check out the competition. You look strong. Good Luck. GREG

  8. Michelle Wengert says:

    Sounds like a fun challenge! Your posts always look delicious and I love the stories that accompany the images. Will be rooting for your from the East Bay, while enjoying the Weds/Sat posts. Good luck! 🙂

  9. Sara says:

    I’m really glad you found me on foodbuzz, Kate, because I got to meet another great blogger. You sure have a new fan here! Good luck with the competition!

  10. doggybloggy says:

    good luck to you – and who doesnt love mussels?

  11. May Ling Wu says:

    Not a big mussels fan but your pictures make me want to dig in!

  12. Ed says:

    Good luck and you have my vote!

  13. lena says:

    Thanks for the recipe – – it is another great-tasting one, as Paul and I can attest to, since you prepared this for us. Good luck on the Food Blog competition – – you are obviously the only choice!

  14. Ale says:

    Mussels are one of my favorite dish! And this looks like may become one of my favorite recipes! Go Kate!!! : )

  15. Karen says:

    The mussels look absolutely wonderful! I don’t know why I’ve never made these at home…
    Good luck on PFB!

    • Thank you, Karen! I know…I must have had moules frites dozens of times out at bistros before it even occurred to me to try them at home. They’re so simple (and inexpensive!) to prepare!

  16. wonderful post! as a fellow contestant I’m quite impressed, well done! i will vote for you!-Leila

  17. Gina Ruiz says:

    Gorgeous mussel recipe! Voted for you. Good luck.

  18. Judy says:

    You got a vote from me!

  19. Good luck, the mussels photos are gorgeous.
    You got my vote!

  20. Great post! Those mussels are calling my name! I look forward to reading more in the future. I voted for you! =)

    Good luck!

    You can check out my PFB post at :

  21. Flotch says:

    Those mussels look delish! All the best.

  22. Good luck with PFB! You won one of my votes!
    If you’d like to check out my entry – it’s here:

  23. elizabeth says:

    Good luck! Yours is easily among my favorites of these entries –I feel like I know you but I also don’t have the feeling that I’ve just read the blog post equivalent of an audition tape you’d see on a reality show, which is a very good thing.

    Good luck!

  24. Claudia says:

    The mussel recipe is indeed wonderful. Your photo is so enticing, I just may scrap my dinner plans and make this instead. And yes – you have my vote. It looks like you are having fun with all of this!

  25. Elizabeth, Claudia, Crystal: thank you so much, ladies! I appreciate your notes and encouragement!

  26. Wow…just love this dish, and already voted but good luck and have fun. Looking forward to your next challenge post 🙂

  27. Lindsay says:

    Oh so yum!! I love it! I just gave you a vote! You can check out my entry here: Thanks and Good Luck!

  28. Angie says:

    Absolutely beautiful dish….You’ve got a vote from me!

  29. Great entry, love the recipe and good getting to know you. You got my vote!

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