Nearly all mussels available at supermarkets or fish markets today are farmed and not harvested wild. However, if wild mussels are available, the best way to rid them of sand and mud is to add about 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour to a large container of salted water. Then add the live mussels (which have not yet been debearded) and let sit in the mixture for 2 to 3 hours. The mussels will eat the flour and purge themselves of debris, as well as plump up. Remember that an open mussel that closes when pressed is good; if the mussel stays open after being pressed, it is bad and should be discarded.
In a large deep saute pan or pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the shallots, garlic, and herb sprigs, and cook, stirring, until fragrant and the shallots are soft, about 1 minute. Add the wine, pepper, and salt and bring to a boil. Add the mussels, cover and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until the mussels are opened, 5 to 6 minutes.
Remove from the heat and discard any mussels that have not opened. Transfer the mussels and their liquid to a large, deep serving bowl and garnish with the chopped parsley. Serve immediately with the French bread croutons for dipping.
French Bread Croutons:
Yield:12 to 20 croutons
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Place the bread slices on a large baking sheet and brush 1 side of each slice first with the cut garlic cloves and then with the olive oil, and then lightly season with the salt and pepper. Bake until light golden brown, about 8 minutes.
Cool slightly on the baking sheet before handling or serving.