Mouclade is a famous French dish from La Rochelle in which mussels are cooked with a cream sauce with curry.
I couldn’t be more excited when I heard my all time favorite food writer Diana Henry was working on a new cookbook over a year ago. After much anticipation, her cookbook How to Eat a Peach arrived in the mail last week. It was past midnight when I came home from work, sat on my bedroom floor, and got lost in her stories.
For the first chapter, Diana took us to France where she had her exchange trip at the age of fifteen and for the first time truly experienced the joy of cooking. Her menu included kir breton, leeks with breton vinaigrette, rillette, mouclade, and crepes. I’m familiar with kir breton, leeks, rillette, and crepes but mouclade was a foreign term. Mouclade is a famous dish from La Rochelle on the west coast of France in which mussels are cooked in a creamy curry sauce. It’s a lesser known relative of the more popular Normandy classic moules mariniere.
The key to a delicious mouclade is using the freshest mussels. Pick ones that small, black, and glistening and you’ll be rewarded with a sweet, tender, and briny taste. As soon as you get home, rinse them in very cold water which makes their shells shut tightly. Discard any that are open, broken, or cracked. While you’re checking them, remove their beards by gently pulling and twisting at the same time. If you’re not ready to cook them, put the prepped mussels in a dry bowl covered with a damp towel and refrigerate.
From my first taste, the sauce had a gentle curry kiss followed by richness of the cream and lingering taste of white wine. As we sat there, our sleeves rolled up and hands dripping with sauce, we polished off the whole pot of mussels and mopped up all the sauce with baguette from Bread and Cie. Without Diana Henry, I probably would have never discovered mouclade. I’m looking forward to cooking many more dishes from How to Eat a Peach and can’t wait to share them with you.
Mouclade French mussels in cream sauce and curry
- a pinch of saffron
- 2 lbs mussels
- ¼ cup boiling water
- 4 tbsps unsalted butter (½ stick)
- 2 banana shallots, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed and roughly chopped
- ¾ teaspoon yellow curry powder
- 2 tbsps brandy
- 2 tsp all purpose flour
- ¼ cup dry white wine like Chardonnay
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tsp granulated sugar
- salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- ¼ cup parsley, finely chopped
- baguette or a crusty bread for serving
- Put saffron in a cup and add ¼ cup of boiling water. Let it steep for 30 minutes.
- Clean the mussels with several washes of very cold water, removing any beards and barnacles.
- Tap each mussel against the sink as you clean and discard any that remain open and don’t close.
- Over medium heat, melt the butter and gently saute the shallot until soft, for about 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic and curry powder and cook for another 2 minutes to release the curry’s fragrance.
- Add the brandy and let it boil until it has reduced to a couple of tablespoons.
- Reduce the heat and stir in the flour, mixing well until everything is smooth.
- Take the pan off the heat and gradually add the saffron and its water while stirring. Set aside.
- In a separate large saucepan, place the wine and mussels and cover the lid. Cook the mussels over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally until the mussels have opened.
- Strain the mussels over a large strainer and collect their juice in a bowl. Discard any mussels that didn’t open and put the rest back in the saucepan and cover to keep warm.
- Strain the mussel juice through a sieve lined with muslin to get rid of any sand or grit.
- Reheat the saffron sauce over medium heat. Add the mussel juice and stir to combine.
- Bring the sauce to a boil and simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the cream and simmer for another 5 minutes until it has reduced and the sauce is a little thick.
- Season with sugar, salt, and freshly ground pepper. Stir in the parsley.
- Put the mussels in a large serving bowl, pour over the sauce, and serve immediately with a fresh loaf of baguette.