Six O’Clock Solution: Québécois mussel chowder is a celebration of winter

March 18, 2024

This recipe is from an English cookbook called Roast Figs, Sugar Snow by Diana Henry.

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A lusty version of hot cooked mussels is a meal-in-one, containing fish and vegetables along with the shellfish.

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The recipe is from an English cookbook called Roast Figs, Sugar Snow by Diana Henry (Hachette/Canadian Manda Group, $32.99). The author of 10 earlier cookbooks celebrates winter in a new edition of a 2005 book, offering more than 500 recipes from her travels.

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Henry, a food columnist who writes weekly for London’s Telegraph, relishes the cold and subtitles her attractive book “food to warm the soul.” The soups and stews are easy and warming; the side dishes could be main courses at lunch or supper. Her desserts carry out the theme, big and sweet and succulent.

Québécois mussel chowder

Serves 4

2 pounds (1 kg) mussels

2 cups (500 mL) dry hard cider

2 tablespoons (30 mL) butter

2 leeks, sliced thinly

1 pound (500 g) potatoes, peeled, cut in 1-1/2-inch (4 cm) chunks (about 3 cups/750 mL)

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7 tablespoons (100 mL) heavy cream

1 pound (500 g) skinless cod fillet, in 1-1/2-inch (4 cm) chunks

Fresh lemon juice

Freshly ground pepper

Flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Clean mussels carefully, scrubbing shells, removing beards and discarding any damaged mussels, including any that do not close when tapped on a hard surface. Place in a large pot and add cider.

Bring mussels to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to low so mussels simmer. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes, until mussels open. Discard any mussels that do not open.

In a large, heavy saucepan, melt butter over medium heat until sizzling hot. Add leeks and potatoes, sprinkle with pepper and a dash of water, cover and cook gently over low heat for about 15 minutes, until they start to soften. Check as vegetables cook, adding a little more water at intervals so vegetables don’t burn.

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When mussels are cool enough to handle, remove from cider and take the meat out of most of them. Discard any that don’t open.

Add cider and mussel juices to the leek and potatoes and simmer until the vegetables are tender. Gently mash some of the potatoes to slightly thicken the juices.

Add cream and cod to the pan and cook the fish over low heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Then add mussels to the soup and heat through.

Check seasonings, adding more pepper and lemon juice to taste. Top with parsley and serve.

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