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Mussels In Leek Bacon And Cream Sauce

Contrary to popular belief, many if not most Israeli restaurants are not kosher and seafood items like mussels (moolim in Hebrew, after the French moules) are common. In this recipe, mussels are made into a hearty dish with smoked bacon, leeks, and cream, perfect even for a winter night.

In a large pot, melt (but do not brown) a stick of butter and add some smoked bacon chunks. Better to use strongly smoked, but less salty slab bacon that you can buy at your butcher’s than any kind of pre-sliced commercial bacon. Increase heat and let the bacon render and get some color, then add chopped leeks, one or two, depending on size. Season with salt and black pepper to taste and cook on low-medium heat until the leeks have wilted. Taste for seasoning; the sauce should be quite salty, such that if you dipped a piece of bread in it, it would be just right. Remember, you will be adding the mussels and the cream, so make sure your sauce is nice and strong.

Once the leeks, the butter, and the bacon have all blended into one delicious sauce, add three pounds of black mussels, not the frozen New Zealand kind. This recipe will not work with them. Prince Edward Mussels are great, or any other source from the North Atlantic. Optionally, add one or two cloves of finely chopped garlic. Cover and cook/steam on medium heat until all mussel shells have opened (or nearly all, there will always be a few bad ones). This should only take five minutes or so. Do not overcook or the mussels can become rubbery. Add about a cup of half and half or 18% cream. If you only have heavy whipping cream, mix it half and half with milk. Add to the pot and let it briefly come back to the boil, after which immediately turn off the heat. Taste the sauce and the mussels and adjust the seasonings accordingly.

Serve with crusty bread like baguette or French country loaf (pain de campagne) and a dry acidic white wine like an unoaked Cardonnay. Be’Teavon!

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