Seasonal local food recipe No.178: Mussels with leeks, bacon and tarragon

A recipe from Lucas Hollweg’s Good Things to Eat. Make sure the leeks are totally soft before you add the mussels, he advises.

Serves 4 as a first course, 2 as a main

Preparation: 20 minutes
Cookings: 15 minutes

4 rashers streaky bacon, sliced into 5mm strips
a couple of good knobs of butter
1 medium leek, white and pale green only, sliced
2 garlic cloves
2 bushy sprigs of thyme
125ml dry white wine or dry cider
1kg mussels, debearded and scrubbed
freshly ground black pepper
a handful of fresh tarragon leaves, chopped
5 tbsp double cream, if you like

In a large saucepan, fry the bacon with a knob of butter for a minute or two, then add the remaining butter and turn the heat down to low. Stir in the leek, garlic and thyme, cover with a lid, and sweat gently for 5-6 minutes, or until softened but not brown.

Add the wine and mussels, season with pepper, then cover and turn up the heat. Give the pan a vigorous shake, then cook for 5 minutes, or until the mussels have opened. Throw away any that don’t.

Now you can
EITHER stir in the tarragon, then serve immediately, ladling the shells and juices into bowl
OR strain out the mussels with a slotted spoon and bubble the juices for a minute or two to thicken slightly, then add the cream and bubble for 1 minute more. Tip the mussels back in, along with the tarragon, and stir until everything is warmed through and coated in the sauce.

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