Mussels in a Bay- and Saffron-flavoured Gratinée with Goat’s Cheese

I love the sweetness and fleshy plumpness of mussels. This is a wonderful dish, best served with a crisp green vegetable such as broccoli and a bowl of buttered noodles or new potatoes.

Ingredients

  • 2.5-2.75 kg/5-6 lb mussels
  • 150 ml/¼ pint white wine
  • 600 ml/1 pint milk
  • 4-5 bay leaves
  • good pinch saffron strands
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 50 g/2 oz butter
  • 2 heaped tablespoons plain flour
  • 75 g/3 oz Cheddar cheese, grated
  • 75 g/3 oz goat’s cheese, crumbled
  • cayenne pepper
  • salt

Method

Wash the mussels and scrub them thoroughly, discarding any open ones that do not close when tapped on a work surface. Put them into a very large saucepan with the wine. Cover the pan and put over a high heat. Shake the pan around for 2-4 minutes, just until the mussels have opened, then remove the lid and leave the pan on one side.

Put the milk, bay leaves and saffron into a saucepan and bring just up to the boil, stirring now and then. When it reaches boiling point, remove from the heat and leave on one side for at least 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to help the bay and saffron flavours infuse the milk. Meanwhile, remove the mussels from their shells over the pan in which they were cooked, so the juices pour back in. Put the mussels into a large, shallow heatproof dish. Strain the mussel liquid through a fine sieve into the pan of milk. Remove the bay leaves from the pan.

Peel and finely chop the garlic. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat, add the garlic and stir for a minute or two. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the flour until smooth. Gradually stir in the milk and mussel liquid and put back over a fairly high heat. Bring to the boil, stirring all the time until the sauce has thickened. Stir in the grated Cheddar and all but 25 g/1 oz of the goat’s cheese. Continue stirring until the cheese has melted. Finally add cayenne pepper and salt to taste.

Pour the sauce over the mussels and sprinkle the remaining goat’s cheese on top. Put the dish under a hot grill until speckled brown and then either serve immediately or keep warm in a very low oven until ready to eat.

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