Quick, Northern Hemisphere folks! You’ve only got a month of mussel eating to go before the season ends in May.
Although the mussels available in my local Southern California stores are less than inspiring, taking a firm back seat to the large, orangey-pink beauties available from September to April in most fish mongers in England, I still love sucking the sweet mussels from their shells and maybe dipping a fry or two into the cooking liquor.
If you want to feel extremely jealous, head over to Food and Forage Hebrides and check out Tracey’s envy provoking post featuring their local mussel patch. Judging from the size and color of those beauties (and all the other informative and mouth-watering posts on Food and Forage Hebrides), it pays to live on one of the northern Scottish Isles!
However, firmly ensconced in Southern California at least for the month of April, I settled with my shop-bought mussels and made them shine with one of my favorite mussel recipes, Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s Mussels with Cider, Leeks and Bacon. Cider and cream with mussels? I’ll admit I was skeptical at first, but as usual, Mr. Whittingstall didn’t let me down.
By the way, while delicious as is, the recipe is vastly improved if you can make it with your own home-cured bacon…
· 2 lbs mussels
· 2 tablespoons butter
· 1 tablespoon coconut oil
· 6 slices unsmoked bacon, thickly chopped
· 1 large leek, finely sliced
· 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
· 1 bay leaf
· 1 bottle of dry cider
· 1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard
· 3 tablespoons double cream
· Sea salt
· Freshly ground black pepper
· Chopped fresh parsley
Clean your mussels by rinsing them off, cutting off their little beards and any small barnacle attachments. Discard those who don’t close after tapping them sharply, but give them a moment before you gauge their reaction. Mussels are slow to respond when they’re cold.
Allow them to drain while you melt the butter and coconut oil together in a large pot over a medium-hot heat. Add the bacon and fry until it begins to golden, then stir in the leeks, thyme and bay leaf. Fry till the leeks are softened.
Turn the heat to high and pour in the cider. Stir in the mustard, then add the mussels and immediately cover with a tight fitting lid. Steam them from 3-5 minutes, shaking the pot now and again to fully disperse the mussels.
Once open, reduce the heat to low, stir in the cream and sprinkle over a little fresh pepper and a tiny bit of salt, keeping in mind that mussels are salty from the sea water.
Sprinkle over some fresh parsley and serve in large bowls with lots of the bacony, leeky cooking liquor and some fresh french bread to mop up the last drop. Or be very Belgian and serve with french fries. Either way, savor the delicious combination of rich cream, pungent cider, sweet mussels, and savory leeks and bacon.
Image courtesy of Shana Sammons, © 2013.