Mussels on Polenta

I managed to find freshly harvested mussels for this simple preparation, still smelling like the ocean … fabulous! It only took about 15 minutes from stove to table and well worth it. Serve with a simple potato-tomato salad with a mustard vinaigrette, some warm artisan bread to sop up the sauce, and a hearty syrah. Serves 4.


4 lbs. mussels, washed and debearded if necessary
1-1/4 c. fruity dry white wine
2 T. olive oil
1/2 c. chopped shallots
2-1/2 c. diced (1/2") mushrooms (about 6 ounces)
2 T. all-purpose flour
salt to taste (if needed)
3/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c. heavy cream
1/3 c. fresh chives, minced

4 c. water
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. instant polenta

Combine the mussels and white wine in a large saucepan or dutch oven, cover and place over high heat. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring the mussels with a large spoon once or twice, until the mussels all open. Don't overcook. Put a large colander in a bowl and empty the mussels into it so that the bowl underneath collects all the liquid (you should have about 2 cups of mussel cooking liquid). Remove the half shell from each mussel and discard. Put the mussels in the half shells aside while you make the sauce.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and mushrooms and cook for 3-4 minutes. Sprinkle the flour on top and mix it in well, and cook for another 30 seconds. Add the reserved 2 cups of mussel liquid, pouring in carefully in case there is a bit of dirt or sediment left at the bottom; bring to a boil, stirring occasionally with a whisk until the mixture thickens, about 3-5 minutes. Taste and add the salt (if needed) and pepper, then add the cream and bring to a boil. Put the mussels into the sauce and stir to incorporate, bring to a boil, and simmer for one minute. Take off the heat.

FOR THE POLENTA: Bring the water and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Sprinkle the polenta into the water, stirring vigorously with a whisk. Cook, stirring often, for about 3 minutes over medium heat until thickened. If it sits for a bit and gets too thick again, just thin with 1/4 c. of water.

TO SERVE: Put some of the polenta in the bottom of four wide bowls, add a few big spoonfuls of the mussels in the center and drizzle some of the liquid all around. Sprinkle with chives.

– Jacques Pépin, "Heart & Soul in the Kitchen"