A Summer Treat: Moules Marinières Tablescape Talk & A Summer Favorite

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Summertime is the perfect opportunity to embrace local seafood, fresh produce and farm provisions. Better yet, we are lucky enough to enjoy these scrumptious treats outdoors. Here, Caitlin of @citrusandcedars, muses on her Moules Marinières recipe & her ideal summer table:

“I absolutely love cooking in the summertime and find that one’s menu should mirror the carefree mentality the season evokes. No fuss! I once served pesto pasta at a dinner party much to my apprehension and it was a big hit – not to mention, I hardly spent any time in the kitchen preparing! If sourced properly, I strongly believe your ingredients will hold court. And the sourcing is often the most enjoyable part…visiting salty fish shanties, farm stands and the like.  Having a magical table is just as important as what you are serving, I often spend more time scheming and setting the table than cooking!

My Moules Marinières dish is one I have spent a great deal of time experimenting with. Some might say my cooking style is bold in that I don’t believe in following every minute measurement with recipes (unless I’m baking!). I achieve great pleasure in pouring myself a glass of wine, turning on some Bossa nova and tasting my way through the dish I am creating. As a result, this particular dish is one that has had many iterations. I have always loved Moules Marinières in that it is so easy to prepare, classically summer and sets the tone for an effervescent experience.”


How do you think about setting your table?
My approach is pretty simple. The table should be light and fun with thoughtful textures, to always incorporate fresh flowers or potted varieties. The candles and flowers should never be tall – the worst dinner parties are when you can’t even see the person sitting across from you! It prevents fluid conversation and creates an awkward dining experience. I think bud vases are fun – with big bold dahlias to create a whimsy tablescape, always in odd numbers. Recently, I hosted a garden party where I potted a variety of lettuces – swiss chard, mesclun and kale – with corresponding garden copper plant markers that functioned as name cards. It set the tone for the “garden party” and left my guests with a little something to take and plant at home.

Favorite music for a dinner party?
I always play some sort of Brazilian Bossa nova or a combination of Stan Getz & Ella Fitzgerald. Light, sensual and really – anything with a saxophone! 

Any favorite summer desserts?
The grand finale! I think desserts are so easy to overthink. I once served Klondike Ice Cream Bars but presented them in a beautiful sterling silver bowl that belongs to my Father’s trophy collection. An easy rhubarb and peach crumble with Susanna’s Vanilla Bean Ice Cream from Sweet Berry Farm is always a crowd pleaser, or a simple shortbread tart with lavender cream cheese frosting and berries. Since a recent trip to Amsterdam, I have developed a fetish with edible flowers, as they can make such an impact – in a glass of bubbly to serve upon your guests arrival, or in a dessert dish.

Aside from your recipe below, any other recommendations when it comes to serving your Moules Marinières dish? 
Always have some fresh flat-leave parsley on hand for garnish and bread for dipping in that luscious sauce. Olga’s Cup & Saucer has a perfect baguette which I will try to get at the Aquidneck Grower’s Market on Wednesdays. Don’t forget the discard bowl for the shells!

TO SOURCE:

  • 6 pounds mussels (1/2 pound per person) 
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons finely minced shallots
  • 1 garlic glove, finely minced
  • 4 cups dry white wine or rosé (after all, it is summer!) 
  • 1/4 cup Half & Half
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablepoons minced fresh parsley

TO PREPARE:

  1. Lightly scrub the mussels and let them sit in a bowl of fresh water for 10 minutes. Then drain.
  2. In a saucepan, melt about two tablespoons of the butter over low heat. Then, saute the shallots and garlic over low heat until they are soft and start to brown for about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the wine & remaining butter as the mixture is slowly stirred for another 5 minutes.
  4. Add the Half & Half now stirring more frequently. Let the mixture cook on low heat for another 2 minutes.
  5. Turn the heat up to medium and add the mussels. Cover the mussels with a lid and let them cook for about 5 minutes, periodically checking to see if they have opened. Sprinkle in the pepper about about 1 tablespoon of the parsley.
  6. Once the mussels are all opened, transfer to serving bowl with the remaining broth in the bottom.
  7. Garnish with remaining parsley and voila!