Golden Mussel Chowder Recipe

Oct 22, 2012 4:01 pm

An elegant shellfish chowder via the Middle East

mussel chowder recipe
Photo: Mark Roper
Make this Middle Eastern golden mussel chowder as a first course for your next special occasion dinner.

As we mentioned earlier, we're just a month out from Thanksgiving. Whoa. Every weekday afternoon between now and Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 22, we'll feature a recipe that can add another dimension to your holiday table, or make you The Man if you're just bringing a dish to a gathering.

A Middle Eastern take on a New England classic, Golden Mussel Chowder is a great first course for any special occasion dinner. Using ground turmeric in the spice blend as well as roasting saffron threads briefly and crushing them before adding them to the soup contribute to the dish's golden color and exotic flavor palette. The caramelized bacon adds a sweet, crisp and smoky note without taking center stage. 

Servings: 4 to 6


2 pounds mussels
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon golden spice mix (see below)
1 cup white wine
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
2 small leeks
1 cup heavy cream
rind of one preserved lemon, rinsed and finely diced (or a tablespoon of fresh lemon zest)
10 saffron threads, roasted and crushed
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
2 medium tomatoes, seeded and finely diced
freshly ground black pepper
4 slices bacon
light brown sugar
thin rounds of crispy fried leek, to garnish
For the golden spice mix
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 tablespoon ground turmeric
1/2 tablespoon ground ginger
1/4 tablespoon chili powder
  1. Scrub the mussels clean and pull off the beards. Discard any mussels that refuse to close after a sharp tap.
  2. In a heavy-based saucepan, sauté the onion, celery, garlic and golden spice mix in the olive oil for about a minute, then add the wine and the mussels.
  3. Cover, turn the heat up and steam for 3 minutes. Turn the mussels well, replace the lid and steam for a further two minutes or until the mussels have opened.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to steam for a further minute before taking off the lid and straining the liquor through a fine sieve to catch any dirt. Reserve the liquor.
  5. Throw any unopened mussels back into the pot and steam for another minute or two. Discard any that stubbornly refuse to open. Allow the mussels to cool, and then remove them from their shells and cut in half.
  6. Steam the potatoes and whole leeks for 10-15 minutes, or until tender. Remove from the heat and allow to cool a few minutes. Split the leegs in half lengthwise, then cut them into 1/2-inch slices.
  7. Return the mussel liquor to the pot, add the cream and bring to a boil Add the potatoes, leeks and preserved lemon (or zest) then the saffron and thyme. Heat thoroughly.
  8. Add the diced tomatoes and mussels and warm through briefly. Season with pepper.
  9. Sprinkle the bacon liberally with brown sugar and fry until golden brown. Shred and sprinkle on the soup and garnish with the crisp fried leeks. 
Level of Difficulty: 
Prep Time: 
1 hour, 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 
1 hour, 20 minutes
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