Moules au curry

mussels curry1

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.

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2 Responses to Moules au curry

  1. Meg says:

    Hello David. You are not the first person to comment on the matter of ‘bearding’ mussels. But actually it’s not a problem and well worth the mini-effort. I timed it and it takes less than 5 minutes — more like 3 minutes — to beard half a liter of mussels. Very quick, and although we all love plastic vacuum-packed foods for convenience at times, the everyday French chef insists that seafood must be fresh!

  2. David Lewis says:

    Moules au curry is one of TWO dishes in my life whose taste remained in my mouth for a couple of days. I still remember the gorgeous ginger glow of a bowlful eaten in one of the few basic restaurants on the port of Monte Carlo 15 years ago. I tried in vain to find the place a year later.
    But life is too short to buy mussels that need bearding. Tonight I shall be preparing moules au curry from 2 kg cleaned but still live mussels bought in a strong sealed plastic pack from my local supermarket. I shall add fresh ginger, garlic and onions – but no leeks (too many carbs).
    P.S. The other dish which stayed with me long after eating was an over-garlicked stuffed tomato I had as a treat after a university interview in Cambridge. My resultant garlicky breath and perspiration cleared a space around me in the Watford Palace Theatre more than 24 hours later.

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