Whelks, Periwinkles and Mussels…mais oui!

20131008-111415.jpg We are in Normandy…land of cream, butter, mussels, periwinkles and whelks. It is insanely beautiful. And although it is Autumn the leaves have not changed colors…yet. Late nights and early mornings are cold and crisp. We are a group of four, traveling with our best friends of 30+ years for a glorious few weeks. Every night after a late dinner we settle into the ancient courtyard of our inn for a Calvados nightcap. We discovered years ago that the four of us travel quite well together enjoying symbiotic enabling relationships. “Would you like another glass of wine?” “Well, why don’t we just order another bottle?” Or “I’m having some chocolate with hazelnuts. Would anyone like a piece?” And someone ALWAYS does! You have to love the person who encourages you at breakfast to take the last slice of Chevre because, “Hey! You’re in France!”. I shouldn’t be surprised but I always am at how the French don’t ask for much but what they DO ask for must be the best! The quality of life in rural France is truly based on common sense and the four of us have come to the conclusion that the French want and expect beauty in all aspects of their daily lives. No gargantuan, neon electric signs, no in-your-face billboards glaring down at you, no running shoes on fat people and, for that matter, no fat people. I understand and embrace that concept. I work very hard to maintain pretty all around me. The first night here we walked down to the village of Arromanches-Sur-Mer for dinner. We were thrilled with the narrow, cobblestone streets, the two and three story stone houses each topped with several chimneys, and windows framed by wooden shutters that actually open and close keeping out wind, rain and light. In other words they’re truly functional. Not like at home where shutters are purely decorative. Eeeeww. Equally heinous are the bogus fireplaces crammed full with candle collections. Non, non, s’il vous plais!! But I digress. The night was foggy and rainy, full of beautiful mystery and excitement. Perfect for a mountain of sweet, local mussles cooked in white wine with some aromatics. With a salad, some crusty French bread to sop and a few bottles of wine? Mais, oui!


Moules Mariniere Mussels in White Wine

  • 2 pounds mussels
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • butter
  • shallots, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped bacon, smoked ham or pancetta (optional but it’s REALLY GOOD!)
  • 1 tablespoon flour (omit if you want gluten free)
  • fresh parsley, finely chopped
  1.  Place all the mussels in a large bowl of salted water for 10 minutes or so.  Discard any that open.  Any that have a “beard” need to be cleaned by firmly pulling on the beard in the direction of the hinge.
  2. In a large pot pour the white wine, bring to a boil and add the drained mussels.  Cover and steam for 7-10 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat, separate mussels from cooking liquid and pour the liquid in the pot into a measuring cup to settle.  DO NOT THROW OUT COOKING LIQUID!
  4. In a large, deep pan melt the butter and saute the pork if using.  When a little golden on the edges add the shallots and cook until clear.
  5. Carefully add 1 cup of drained cooking fluid to the pan being careful not to include any grit lying on the bottom of the cup.
  6. Stir and add flour to thicken.
  7. Continue stirring until thickened to your liking.
  8. Place warm mussels in a large serving bowl and pour sauce over.
  9. Sprinkle with parsley.
The view from our front window.  I'm lovin' those sweet cows!
The view from our front window. I’m lovin’ those sweet cows!

Serve with a salad of mixed baby greens, crusty peasant bread and wine.  Mmmmmm..


  1. Siria Tatum

    I should have been born French!!! Yum, Yum, Yum…can’t wait to try these! I so enjoy all your posts. Wishing I was with you in France!

  2. Mary Denu Mapes

    Lovely Alicia..I love reading your stories just as much as your recipes. Your description of the recipe makes the photograph of food come alive…I really hope I see your book of recipes and stories in a book store one day..Have a wonderful time in France.

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