Moules a la Mariniere
(mussels fisherman style)

Mussels were relatively unknown to Americans several years ago, other than those of Mediterranean ethnicity and especially those living on the East Coast. Mountains of mussels annually caught in nets as a byproduct of clam and oyster dredging rotted on New England shores. In New York City in the ‘60s and ‘70s mussels could be purchased from Italian fishmongers for 19 cents a pound. Today they are sold in supermarkets from coast to coast, though the price is closer to $4.00.

Most mussels lately are farm-raised, which possibly accounts for their increased popularity. Scraping them and trimming their "beards" used to be an unpleasant and time-consuming chore. Now they come to us in their Sunday-best go-to-meeting black shells, already polished and cleanly shaved. Prep time at home is almost nonexistent. The following recipe should take no more than 5 minutes. The convenience is well worth the price increase.

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2 doz. mussels      1 cup dry white wine      ½ med. onion      2 cloves garlic     1 shallot

½ bay leaf     2 sprigs thyme      2 sprigs parsley     4T butter      coarse ground pepper

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Pour wine into 2-qt saucepan. Add finely chopped onion, garlic and shallot, ½ bay leaf and 2 sprigs of thyme. Bring liquid to a boil over high heat and cook 1 min. Add mussels, cover, and steam until mussels open (30-45 sec). Discard any that do not open.

Moving quickly: remove top shell (opt.) and distribute mussels evenly among 4 warm bowls. Bring liquid back to boil. Add butter and swirl until it is completely incorporated. Pour liquid over mussels. Sprinkle with finely chopped parsley and freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately with crusty French bread. Serves 4 as an appetizer, 2 as a main course.

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