Curry Favor with these Farmed Mussels

Ready for another easy recipe? It’s an inspired take on mussels. It uses sour cream to deftly tame the boldness of curry without losing any complexity. It’s a masterpiece from Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

I am calling my simplified version, Curried Mussels a la Jean-Georges. Though simple to prepare, it’s an elegant combination of flavors. The preparation is easy, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to befuddle you some.

You see, Ken came home recently with a big bag of mussels from the plain ole grocery store. At $5.99 a pound, I knew they were going to be farmed mussels without even asking. But did I go all diva on him and slam around the kitchen demanding he don a wet suit and get me some wild mussels?? Did I? Did I?

Nope, I like farmed mussels. Are you confused?

I am sure you’ve noticed that I’m quite willing to hold my breath until I turn blue in an effort to gently urge you away from farmed salmon. So you may have it in your head that all aqua-culture is bad. Well, that’s just not true. I like farmed tilapia too.

Domaine Schlumberger Pinot Gris PairingYou see mussels “planted”, “raised” and “harvested” have many excellent qualities. Starting with the most important one (to me). They’re environmentally friendly.

Still, that’s not enough for some people. So let me also say that farmed mussels are relatively inexpensive too. Meaning you can pick them up on a whim (at the grocery store even) and throw together a simple but impressive dish. That’s what I’ve done today using Jean-George’s approach of curry and a bit of sour cream.

But it gets better. Did you know that mussels raised by man (or woman) are ridiculously easy to clean? They have no hairy beards to yank off, less sediment too. Lastly, farmed mussels are a lot milder than their funkier flavored (bearded) wild cousins. For many people, this is another wonderful attribute. For me, it is their only downside. Why do I have to be so difficult, huh?

Well, don’t worry I am not going to get in a kerfuffle over it. Farmed mussels are winners in so many other ways that I have just learned to live with a little less funk and a lot more convenience. Besides, it’s not hard to bring flavor to mussels. They work so well with so many tastes. A surefire path to success is to pair them with contrasting flavors– big doses of garlic, red pepper flakes, salty capers, tangy tomatoes, or sour lemon. These classic partners add some zip to the gentle sweetness of farmed mussels.

Curry contrasts nicely with mussels too. But what amazes me about this recipe is just how tame the combination of flavors really is. And in this case tame is a very good thing. So don’t be tempted to add more curry. I know that it’s easy to think that curry should be bold, spicy even. But in this combination, the curry is much more nuanced and quite surprising as a partner to the sweet briny flavor of mussels.

Lastly, choose sour cream instead of using regular heavy cream, which can be rather one-dimensional when sitting alongside a big taste like curry.

I promise this is a complexly flavored, highly aromatic, multi-textured, big bowl of farmed mussel goodness.

mussel in curryCurried Mussels a la Jean-Georges

serves 4 CLICK here for a printable recipe

  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 0.5 c sweet white wine such as riesling
  • 4 lb mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded
  • 0.5 c sour cream
  • 1 t curry powder
  • 1 T fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 0 salt and white pepper to taste

Place the butter butter in a saucepan large enough to hold all the mussels. Turn the heat to medium. Once the butter melts, add the shallots and cook about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the white wine and mussels, bring the heat to high, and cover. Cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until the mussels open, about 8 minutes. Remove the mussels with a slotted spoon.

Strain the liquid into a bowl, wipe out the pan, then return the liquid to the clean (grit free) pan. Bring to a boil, add the sour cream and the curry powder. Reduce heat to a simmer, add the lemon juice and cook about 3 more minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and white pepper or a bit more curry powder. Do not add so much curry as to overly define the sauce. Nuance is your goal. Return the mussels to the pot and gently reheat. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve.


Greg Henry

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