This clean, bright-tasting entry in the 2012 Belgian Restaurant Week Mussel Throwdown was inspired by a Belgian classic: eels in green sauce. Belgium native Geert Piferoen kept the ingredient list simple to let the flavor of the mussels shine through.
He also recommends using a Straffe Hendriks tripel instead of the Hoegaarden.
Serve with crusty bread for dipping.
- 1 medium onion
- 2 ribs celery
- 1 medium shallot
- 2 medium cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 or 3 sprigs thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 12 ounces (1 bottle) Hoegaarden beer
- 5 ounces flat-leaf parsley (leaves and tender stems)
- 5 ounces cilantro (leaves and tender stems)
- 1 cup packed spinach leaves
- 2 pounds mussels, preferably from Prince Edward Island
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup heavy cream
Cut the onion and celery into small dice (heaping them together is okay). Mince the shallot to yield 2 tablespoons and the garlic to yield 2 teaspoons (again; together is okay).
Heat the oil in a pot large enough to hold the mussels, over medium-low heat. Add the onion, celery, shallot, garlic, thyme, bay leaves and one-fourth of the beer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened but not browned.
Meanwhile, coarsely chop the parsley, cilantro and spinach, reserving about 1 tablespoon each of the parsley and cilantro for garnish. Working in batches, transfer the mixture of greens to a food processor or blender, adding up to 6 ounces total of the beer. Puree until smooth.
Clean the mussels under running water. If any of them are open, tap gently on them. If they do not close, discard them.
Pour the green puree into the pot, then add the mussels and stir to incorporate. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the cream and the remaining beer. Bring to a boil over high heat; cover and cook just until the mussels have opened. Discard the thyme and bay leaves.
Divide between individual bowls, discarding any mussels that did not open. Garnish each portion with the reserved chopped parsley and cilantro. Serve hot.
From chef Piferoen, owner of Locolat in Washington.
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
E-mail questions to the Food Section at email@example.com.