Your Mussels Look Great In that LBD

There's a Little Black Dress of dinner party dishes. It has an understated elegance, is easy to slip into, and pairs well with a nice bottle of white wine and a pearl necklace. It is always festively appropriate, and never fails to impress.

You'll never guess.

No, really.  You won't, because it's not what you think.

Ok, done guessing?

The answer: Mussels.

Mussels are actually very versatile, and take well to flavoring. I'm lucky enough to live 2 blocks from a fantastic Mussel bar, St. Arnold's, which I don’t go to nearly as much as I should. It took me almost a full year of living in D.C to find this place, and it was only by chance. After a Hawkeye loss and a night of drinking, my friend and I not-so-soberly decided that we wanted mussels. Right. Then. Nothing could get in our way. So we called a friend of a friend who recommended a restaurant that he swore had the best mussel pots a couple neighborhoods over, and we jumped in a cab at midnight and talked to the cabbie about mussels and barnacles. (Bless him, that wonderful cab driver.)

St. Arnold's has a fantastic mussel selection and beer list. (Actually, I believe they're mainly a bar with a mussel specialty on the side, which absolutely blows my mind.) Before I go any further, I know what you’re thinking. Beer is not Paleo. You’re absolutely right, it is not.  But what have I always said? Live a little. That’s what I say. Always. 

At St. Arnold’s, the types of mussels go on and on: Thai Basil Mussels, Italian red pepper mussels, duck fat mussels… yummmm

Surprisingly, mussels are so incredibly easy to make on your own. My favorite variation to make isn't a variation at all. It's the classic way, the Little Black Dress of mussels: the French way. (With a little Paleo twist, of course.)

When I'm trying hard to impress a dinner guest, but want to make it look effortless, I make this recipe. Also, it pairs well with a killer pair of black heels, a string of pearls, apron, and, you guessed it, a little black dress.

Bonus points if you light a candle for a, hmmmm, "Je ne sais crois..."

LBD Mussels

Serves 3 generously

  • 3 lbs. fresh, live mussels*
  • 1/2 finely chopped shallot
  • 1 1/2 head finely chopped, fresh garlic
  • 6 tbsp. fresh, chopped parsley plus extra to garnish
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tbsp. duck fat (optional, you can substitute this with more butter, ghee, or another fat of your choice)
  • 8 oz. canned coconut cream
  • Salt to taste
  1. Chop shallot, garlic, and parsley.
  2. Add olive oil to pan and heat until shimmering.
  3. Add shallot, garlic, and parsley to oil until fragrant and just starting to brown.
  4. Add white wine and simmer in pan.
  5. While oil-wine mixture is simmering, add butter and duck fat. Whisk until melted, then reduce heat to low and let wine mixture reduce for a few minutes.
  6. Add coconut cream and simmer until sauce is well melded.
  7. Add mussels to pot and cover tightly with lid. Let mussels steam for about 10-15 minutes. Stir mussels briefly every few minutes.
  8. Mussels are done when the majority have steamed open.**
  9. Garnish with parsley springs for color. 

*Mussels must be bought and served the same day. They can be stored in the fridge for some time, but they should be placed over ice in a bowl or container with open air. Mussels should never be covered in plastic. They are alive, so they will suffocate if they are derived of oxygen.

** Mussels are done with they have fully opened when steaming. However, in any batch of mussels, they're will be a couple that do not open. These are mussels that have died before steaming, and they should never be pried open and consumed. They can make you very sick.

Attractive meals results in attractive company

Attractive meals results in attractive company

Note: traditional mussels are served with either crusty bread or frites. (French fries.) Sweet potato fries don't work well with this, so I either give in and scoop up the sauce with some bread, or I will pour it over some white rice if I can't afford to go off the Paleo rails. Your choice, but don't waste that sauce. It's duckfatty gold.