Steamed Mussels with Leeks & Root Vegetables (a Memory of a Summer Day in Oslo)
July 3, 2020
Mussels always take me back to that sparkling summer in Oslo, the first time I visited the city of my father’s birth. Now these little shellfish, blåskjell as they’re called in Norway, prompt memories of that special time.
Before that trip, I had associated mussels with Normandy due to signs advertising moules-frites outside the cafes in the beachside town where I studied during college. These days I take what would typically be considered a French preparation with leeks, parsley, and creamy wine-spiked broth and give it a Norwegian touch with a medley of root vegetables and scattering of dill.
The results are so satisfying and hearty that there’s no need to fry up a bunch of potatoes on the side—this is truly a one-pot meal. When I serve this with a refreshing pilsner, a shot of aquavit, and a dose of imagination, I can almost imagine I’m back in Oslo on that magical summer day.
1large leekwhite and light green parts only, thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
3small (14 ounces total) parsnipspeeled and cut into 1/3-inch pieces
32ounceslow-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2cupsdry white wine
1/2cupchopped fresh parsley
1/4cupchopped fresh dillplus more for garnish
1/4cupfreshly-grated horseradishplus more for garnish
Rinse the mussels, and debeard if necessary.
In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat until it glistens, then add leeks and sauté until they soften, 3-4 minutes. Add the parsnips, rutabaga, chicken broth, white wine, and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes. Add the mussels, cover, and steam until the shells open—this should take only a few minutes. (Discard any mussels with broken shells or ones that do not open.) Transfer the mussels to a serving dish and cover to keep warm.
Add the butter to the pan along with the chopped herbs and horseradish, stirring until melted. Pour over the mussels, then sprinkle with additional dill and horseradish to finish.
Mussels are really quite simple to prepare—they could even be considered a weeknight meal. The trick is knowing how to handle them. They won’t last long, so buy them the day you plan to serve them. As soon as you get home, transfer the mussels to a large bowl and cover loosely with a damp paper towel.When you’re ready to start cooking, give the mussels a quick rinse in a colander, and remove the beards if necessary. Spread them out over a baking sheet covered with a paper towel and check them over—if any are open a bit, give those a tap on a hard surface. If they close, they’re still alive, which is good. If they don’t close, then discard them. Again, after cooking, check for health: Discard any that did not open while cooking.