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Wall Street Journal / Life - Entertain

Mussels in Curried Cream Sauce: a Comforting Classic From Frenchette

This one-pot recipe, a.k.a. mouclade, comes together in 20 minutes. Curry, saffron and a little wine make the cream sauce deliciously fragrant.

A SHORT INFUSE ‘Blooming’ the saffron in white wine before adding it to the sauce allows the spice to release its flavor. Photo: Ryan Liebe for The Wall Street Journal, Food Styling by Jamie Kimm, Prop Styling by Nidia Cueva


Kitty Greenwald


THE CHEFS: Lee Hanson and Riad Nasr


Their Restaurant: Frenchette, in Manhattan

What They Are Known For: Collaborating in top kitchens for more than two decades, raising the bar for classic French cooking in New York.

“WE MISSED THE tweezer revolution,” said Riad Nasr. Precious plating and other such fussiness never caught on in the kitchens Mr. Nasr has shared with longtime collaborator Lee Hanson. Over the years, in a series of buzzed-about Manhattan restaurants, the two chefs have focused on the sturdy French classics you tuck into with abandon. These mussels drenched in a curried cream sauce, for instance, are highly slurpable.

Known as mouclade in southwest France, this one-pot meal is simple but also a bit indulgent. Once the shells pop, the mussels are moved to a bowl to preserve their tenderness while the sauce comes together. Egg yolks and cream mingle with the drippings in the pot, plus curry, saffron and a little white wine. Then the mussels get a quick toss in the sauce. No tweezers required. Feel free to dispense with utensils too. Dunking in bread and licking the sauce from your fingers is part of the pleasure.

TOTAL TIME: 20 minutes SERVES: 4

  • 1 pinch saffron
  • ⅓ cup white wine
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 leeks, white parts only, cleaned and julienned
  • 4 shallots finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 4 pounds of mussels, cleaned
  • 3 branches thyme
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • ¼ cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
  • Baguette, for serving

1. In a small bowl, combine saffron with 1 tablespoon white wine and set aside. In a large covered casserole melt half the butter over medium-high heat until foamy. Stir in leeks, shallots and garlic. Sauté until aromatic, about 3 minutes.

2. Add mussels, remaining wine, thyme and bay leaf to pot and cover. Give pot a shake and steam mussels until shells just pop open, about 3 minutes. Meanwhile, set a large bowl within reach of the stove. Use a large slotted spoon to transfer all opened mussels to bowl.

3. Lower heat to medium and bring drippings left in pot to a gentle simmer. Whisk in cream, egg yolks, remaining butter, curry powder and saffron-wine mixture. Simmer until sauce coalesces and thickens slightly, about 1 minute. Turn off heat and return mussels to pot. Gently toss to combine. Scatter cilantro over top and serve with bread.

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