Many people shy away from mussels because, let's face it, they do look a little odd. With their black, shiny shells, often with little green "beards" hanging off the edges, they do look a bit intimidating. The good thing is, they taste wonderful and they are easy to make. With a slightly salty, briny flavor, mussels are quite good when they are simply steamed, but adding mussels to a creamy bisque elevates them to a more sophisticated level. So, if you've never eaten mussels, this is a great way to try these tasty little bites.
3/4 cup Dry White Wine
1/4 cup Water
2 lbs Mussels, scrubbed and any beards removed
2 TB Salted Butter
1 TB Finely Minced Shallots
3 TB Flour
8-oz bottle Clam Juice
1 TB Tomato Paste
1 cup Milk
1 cup Half and Half
Salt and White Pepper to Taste
In a large skillet bring the wine and water to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add the mussels, cover, and cook until the mussels open, about 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the mussels to a cookie sheet to cool, discarding any mussels that did not open, and reserving the cooking liquid from the mussels.
In a medium soup pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the flour, stirring to combine, and cook 2 minutes longer.
Add the clam juice and the reserved cooking liquid to the pot, whisking to blend in the flour. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then add the tomato paste and stir until smooth. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes, then add the milk and half and half and simmer for 5 minutes longer.
Add the spinach to the pot and cook just a few minutes until the spinach is wilted, then add the mussels to the pot, season with salt and white pepper and serve immediately.