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Mussels in ‘Sauce Poulette’

Mussels in ‘Sauce Poulette’

mussel dish 2.jpg Josette Smyrl, our French Hotel Coordinator, has sent me this recipe from her home in Provence. She had just prepared this dish for some friends, so she gladly passed it on to me to share with you, as her meal had been a

success. (Since "poulette" means ‘young hen’ in French, the name probably comes from the use of eggs in the sauce.)

Her recipe is for four people; Rick and I prepared

it yesterday for the two of us. We used two pounds of mussels

and two egg yolks and reduced a little the quantity of the

rest of ingredients. We also put the sauce on whole wheat

spaghetti and half-shelled mussels. We found the sauce to be

very delicate and subtle and a good complement to the

distinct taste of fresh mussels! I also recommend using fresh

rosemary in the broth!

Ingredients for four people:



  • 5 pounds of fresh mussels (in their shells)


For the "broth":



  • one carrot and one onion chopped
  • two bay leaves
  • one sprig of (fresh) thyme and/or rosemary
  • half a cup of white wine


For the sauce:



  • one ounce butter or margarine
  • one-two tablespoons flour
  • three egg yolks
  • one Tbsp of fresh lemon juice




  1. Wash and scrape the mussels under running cold water. Immediately set aside (without letting the mussels stand in water).


  2. In large pot put the diced carrot and onion with the bay leaves, thyme/rosemary and wine.


  3. Add the mussels, cover the pot and turn on high heat for about 8 minutes while stirring once in a while. Check that the mussels shells are well open, remove them with a slotted spoon and set aside in a bowl.

    Let the liquid boil a little longer until reduced some more, then let it settle for a while before straining it carefully.

    Sauce: melt butter in a sauce pan, whisk in the flour and add

    the mussel broth little by little. Bring it back to a boil for a couple

    of minutes, whisking all the time to obtain a smooth sauce.


  4. Take the pan off the heat, add three egg yolks, one at a time,

    mixing briskly and finally add lemon juice.


  5. Sauce is ready and as such, it is the traditional provençal

    "sauce poulette": no other spice is added (the Mediterranean mussels are

    high in iodine and don’t need any addition of salt or other spices!)

    and no cream because traditional Mediterranean recipes don’t use it!

    BUT you are not cooking for theoretical demonstration…you are cooking

    for youself…So, now is time to taste it: depending on the provenance of

    your mussels, you may find the sauce too mild or too strong for your taste:

    too mild? Add (carefully!) a little salt and pepper.. too strong? Add a couple

    of Tbsps of light cream and keep tasting till you find it just right for you!


  6. Now for the serving, I like to propose several possibilities:

    You may divide the mussels in 4 serving bowls and pour the sauce right

    over them (fun but..messy to eat!)

    You may keep only half a shell (a little less messy…)

    Or you may pull carefully each mussel from its shell, add them to the sauce,

    warm it up and serve it with a side dish of fluffy rice, or couscous or pasta….

    Very,very nice….and so easy to eat!



Un grand bon appetit!

Paola Malpezzi Price

Professor of French and Italian

Colorado State University