It all started with a little leftover cream. This isn’t an often-used ingredient in my fat-conscious household but I had some remaining after making my go-to bittersweet chocolate tart for a dinner party and I love to make up recipes from leftovers. Serendipitously, I was thumbing through one of my food magazines and couldn’t pass up a streamlined version of an Alain Ducasse recipe that called for precisely the same amount of leftover cream heading toward oblivion in the trusty fridge.
Naturally, I changed what had already been changed but this recipe in the October ’11 issue of Food & Wine is basically quite divine. And it’s so darn easy! Everything gets thrown into the same pot and what emerges is an utterly delicious seafood assemblage that combines dairy, shallots, dried porcini, wine and curry, which turn out to be as compatible as a bigot at a tea party rally.
It took about 30 minutes from start to blissful consumption but a mini-chop would make it even faster. The published recipe suggested serving this with “crusty bread” but we used some brown rice instead (that’s what was available in the pantry).
The 4-star version of this as served in one of M. Ducasse’s restaurants is more precious and time consuming, but this Cliff’s Notes iteration is certainly transporting. It’s got perfect balance, scrumptious flavors and turns weekday dinners into a conversation stopper. My version is below.
1/3 cup dried porcini mushrooms
3/4 cup boiling water (or enough to cover mushrooms)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 finely chopped onion
1/4 cup minced shallots (about 1 large)
1 apple, finely diced
1 tablespoon fragrant curry powder
2 thyme sprigs
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 pounds mussels, scrubbed & debearded
1/2 cup+ dry white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream (half and half might be a substitute; haven’t tried that yet)
1 pound skinless cod fillets (or similar fish) —bones removed, fish cut into 4-inch pieces
fresh lemon (preferably, Meyer) cut into wedges
cooked rice (jasmine, brown, or whatever you prefer)
Soak the porcinis in the boiling water until softened, 10 minutes. Strain the mushrooms, reserving the soaking liquid, and rinse to remove any grit. Chop.
In a large pot, heat the oil. Add the shallots, apple, onion, curry powder, thyme sprigs and porcini and season with salt and pepper. Cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the shallots are softened, about 5 minutes.
Add the wine, then add the mussels when liquid is hot. Cover and cook over high heat until the mussels have opened, 3 minutes. Remove the mussels and keep them warm.
Add the cream and the strained porcini soaking liquid, stopping before you reach the grit. Bring to a simmer. Nestle the cod in the broth, cover and cook until the fish lightly flakes, 4 minutes. Discard the thyme sprigs.Right before serving, add any liquid from the cooked mussels.
Transfer the cod to individual serving bowls, add some mussels and pour sauce over both. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro. Serve with pieces of sliced lemon for those who like more acidity. Put some rice in the bowl once you’ve eaten some of the mussels and cod and have room. Or follow the recipe and serve with crusty bread.
Wine: A perfect, really cheap wine with this and any other seafood dish is the luscious, crisp, perfumed Sigalas Assyrtiko from the Greek island of Santorini. The 2010 version is currently at K&L for around $20.