A Healthy French Dinner in Under 15 Minutes & 10 Euros

Today I realized I’m becoming French faster than I thought: I found myself craving mussels when I saw they were 20 percent on sale. Just 4 euros—FOUR EUROS!—for a 1-kilo pack at the grocery store.

mussels

Back at home, I had all of the rest of the ingredients I needed left over from various other meals:

–A couple tbsp. French butter

–3 cups dry white wine (a totally drinkable bottle costs only about 4 euros at the French supermarket!!)

–Shallots

–Garlic

–Red pepper

–Lemon, zested

–Day-old baguette (1 euro at the bakery) I was otherwise going to throw out but could now toast and dip

–Cilantro (which I LOVE and happened to have on hand…I realized after many mussels dinners in NYC that you can toss about anything in the pot, so this replaced the recommended parsley just fine)

shallots and garlic chopped for mussels

cilantro for mussels

butter and wine for mussels

In all, those ingredients—a meal for two—cost about 10 euros. Sweet.

Now to the cooking…a total of 10 minutes preparation and 5 minutes simmering.

First thing: Wash them, then de-brine them (by scraping off the salt deposits) and de-beard them (ha! pull out hair-like seaweed from the edges).

And then…the weird part. Figure out if the mussels are alive. It didn’t occur to me that mussels are alive when you cook them, though I knew that I needed to somehow throw out the bad ones before I got cooking…lest I toss my French coquilles. To figure this out, Google told me, you tap the edge of the open mussels (already closed ones should be alive) sharply on the counter. If they close their shell, it means they’re alive.

That’s the hardest part. The rest is a breeze. I cooked the chopped shallots/garlic until browned, then added the wine, red pepper and lemon zest until it was simmering.

Then I dropped in the mussels—the rest of the cooking takes about 5 minutes: 1 minute, stir; 2 minutes, stir and add cilantro; 1-2 minutes until the shells are all opened.

That’s it! In 15 minutes, an awesome French dinner (and lunch leftovers) for two using mostly leftovers that cost me less than 10 euros.

mussels dinner

Even better, it’s a pretty healthy meal too, since mussels are full of DHA fat, protein, iron and zinc. Plus, unlike other fish, they’re environmentally net-zero (farming them may even be good for the ocean). No wonder it’s a favorite—these French really have simple/healthy/fancy-looking food thing down.

Oh yea, there was also a tiny crab in my mussels. Though my husband and I had never seen it before, apparently it’s a thing.

crab in mussels

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