This may not be the simplest way to serve mussels but it is an incredibly tastey way. It took me around an hour to prepare this dish but on a rainy Friday in September I couldn’t think of a better way to start a lazy weekend at home.
The dish was rich and comforting, packed with the flavour of mussels and perfect served with crusty bread to mop up the sauce. We both loved this dish and I will cook it again some time no doubt. Since mussels are in season I am submitting this recipe to Simple and in season over on Fabulicious food.
This recipe is from Hugh’s Fish fight app. This is a great free app, packed with recipes from tops cooks and chefs, as well as information on eating fish seasonally and sustainably. The majority of the recipes are by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall but there are plenty of other recipes from the likes of Gennaro Cotaldo, Antonio Carluccio and Mark Hix to name just a few. If you don’t have an iphone/ipod touch etc you can find most of the content here too.
This is the first recipe I have cooked from the app but I am keen to try some more. A few recipes that have caught my eye include braised squid stuffed with chorizo and rice, pouting and chorizo soup, mussels with chorizo, garlic and smashed roast tomatoes, spiced mackerel goujons with smoked paprika dip and pot-roasted gurnard.
Back to this delicious recipe for mussels, spinach and bacon gratin. The original recipe can be found here. I made a few adjustments to the quantities. The original recipe was for 1kg mussels for 4 people but since we could only buy mussels in bags of 1kg I used the full quantity of mussels but halved everything else. I was a little worried this would upset the balance of flavour (or that there would be too much for us) but if it did we didn’t notice and were happy with the amount of mussels. Also I slightly reduced the amount of spinach as it came ready packed in 200g bags (again we didn’t notice the difference with 50g less spinach). I also used wholemeal breadcrumbs instead of the white suggested as that’s what I had.
If you do want to cook this recipe I would suggest to have a bowl of washing up water ready to wash up as you go along (unless you have a dish washer) as this recipe uses 5 pans. Read the recipe before you start and try to have all your ingredients ready to go when you need them (i.e. already chopped) so you don’t have to get the food processor out to start making breadcrumbs halfway through unlike me. Discard any mussels with broken shells or that do not close fully when tapped on the work surface before cooking.
Mussel, spinach and bacon gratin
2 tablespoons white wine
1 shallot, chopped
1kg mussels, scrubbed and debearded
1 tablespoon rapeseed or olive oil, plus a little more to finish
75g smoked bacon or pancetta, diced fairly small
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
About 200ml whole milk
25g plain flour
200g fresh spinach, tough stalks removed
A squeeze of lemon juice
37g fresh white breadcrumbs
25g Parmesan, grated
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 200C/gas 6.
Put a large pan over a high heat and add the wine, 2 tablespoons of water and the diced shallot. Bring to a simmer, then throw in the mussels and cover with the lid.
Let the mussels steam open in the pan for 3-4 minutes, shaking once or twice. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon the mussels from their shells and set aside. Strain all the cooking liquor through a fine sieve or a coarse sieve lined with a cloth.
Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the bacon and sauté gently until starting to crisp up. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute or so, being careful not to let the garlic burn. Transfer to a bowl.
Now make the béchamel sauce. Combine the reserved mussel cooking liquor with enough milk to make 250ml and heat gently in a pan.
Melt the butter in a separate pan. When foaming, add the flour and stir to make a smooth roux. Gradually add the warmed milk, stirring well after each addition to prevent lumps. Simmer gently for 4-5 minutes.
Drop the spinach into a large pan of boiling water and cook for just a minute, until wilted. Drain, leave to cool a little, then squeeze out excess water with your hands. Chop the spinach roughly.
Fold the bacon, mussels and spinach into the béchamel sauce. Season with freshly ground black pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice.Divide the mixture between four buttered, shallow ovenproof dishes or spread in one large gratin dish. Sprinkle over the breadcrumbs, plus the cheese if using, and trickle over a little rapeseed or olive oil.Bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden and bubbling. Serve hot, with bread.