Every time my husband Marc and I go to Costco, we always come back with something we could have done without. So on our last trip there, Marc dearest came upon a 4.5 pound box of fresh mussels while wandering in the seafood isle. "Hey, it's only $10.99 for all this!", he said as if we had found some great bargain. I tried explaining to him that preparing mussels is a bit of an endeavor, and what you save in money, you pay in labor.
Cleaning and scrubbing the shells, cutting and discarding the beards, checking to see which ones are alive (by tapping sharply on the shell to see if it will close), and which ones are not, rinsing them out, etc (and you haven't even started cooking them yet). All this screamed to the full-time working mother that I am ,"Time consuming! WASTE of time. No time for these frilly dishes! Don't do it!!!"
But I have to admit I have a really hard time saying 'no' to trying a new dish, especially when my husband is getting excited about it. So, I agreed to humor my better half, and off we went with our Costco box of fresh mussels.And what exactly did I make with these darling shells? Une mouclade, of course! A 'mouclade' is basically a French word to describe a mussel dish in a cream and wine sauce lightly spiced with curry and fresh fennel.
The mouclade recipe I used is out of one of my favorite cook books, L'encyclopédie de la cuisine méditerranéenne by Sélection Champagne (the original English version is called Mediterranean, by Lorenz Books), and I am taking back all of my this-is-a-waste-of-time arguments against making mussels. The results were just delicious, great for our family, and so worth the full hour it took me to prepare this dish. I totally encourage anyone try it!
4.5 lbs mussels
1 cup white wine
A generous pinch of grated nutmeg
3 thyme sprigs
2 dried bay leaves
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup butter
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 tsp curry paste
2 tbsp flour
2/3 cup heavy cream
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh dill, chopped
1. Clean out the mussels, and discard the ones that don't open up when tapped with the back of a knife.
2. Add the wine, nutmeg, thyme sprigs, bay leaves, and onion to a large pot and bring to a boil. Add the mussels and cover. Cook for 4-5 minutes, until mussels open up.
3. Drain the mussels, reserving all of the liquid. Discard the mussels that have remained closed.
4. In a pan, melt the butter, and sautée the fennel and garlic for about 5 minutes.
5. Add the curry paste, and flour to the fennel mixture and cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat, and add the mussel cooking juices, a little at a time. Let simmer for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
6. Pour the cream in the sauce, and add the black pepper.
7. Return the mussels to the large pot, add the sauce and cook for another 2 minutes.
8. Now pour everything onto a large enough serving dish, and top the mussels with fresh chopped dill.
We dipped slices of fresh baguette in the creamy sauce, and indulged in a glass of Muscadet white wine (which I also used for this recipe). Perfect pairing! And as for the quality of mussels at Costco, I have to say they were extremely fresh and clean, which helped cut down the prepping time by a lot.