Mussels in a light curry sauce
The trick to preparing mussels — so that they come out meltingly tender — is not to overcook them. In this dish, the curry adds an exotic zing that makes a nice variation on the more frequently served moules marinières (mussels in white wine).
1 liter (4 cups) small to medium mussels
1/3 leek or 2 small onions
freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp. butter or olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 tsp. hot curry powder
2 tbsp. crème fraîche or heavy cream
1 tbsp. finely snipped cilantro or parsley
The first step in making any mussel dish is to ‘beard’ the mussels. They will be live when you bring them home from the fishmonger. You don’t need to cook them right away — they will be fine in the fridge for several hours. But be sure to transfer them out of any plastic and into an uncovered bowl so that they can breathe.
When ready to start cooking, remove the bowl of mussels from your fridge and fill with cold water. Beard the mussels one by one: hold the mussel under cold running water, pull out and discard the seaweed-like ‘beard’ emerging from its shell, place the cleaned mussel in a colander, and continue until all the mussels are bearded.
Now peel and chop the leek or onions.
In a large pot with a cover, heat the butter or olive oil to sizzling. Add the chopped leeks or onions. Cook for about a minute, stirring with a wooden spatula.
Add the mussels. Stir again, grind in some black pepper, add the wine and cover the pot. You do not need to salt the mussels for they will release sea water when they open — they’re naturally salty.
After a minute or so, lift the lid and peek to see whether the shells have opened. If not, replace the lid and cook for another minute. As soon as all the mussels are open, even slightly, remove the lid, turn the heat down to low, add the curry powder and the cream.
Snip in the cilantro or parsley and stir well. Serve at once in shallow soup bowls, accompanied by crusty bread and a dry white wine. Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as a starter.