Moules Frites Stew
Townsman, Boston, MA
Last year perennial JBF Award nominee Matt Jennings made headlines and broke hearts in Providence when he decamped for Boston to open Townsman, one of the most hotly anticipated restaurant openings of 2015. One taste of this dish will show you why he’s earned a cult-like following throughout New England and beyond.
3 ears of corn, husked
2 large leeks, white and light green parts
1 stalk celery
2 bay leaves
2 chipotle peppers, dried or canned (if using canned, rinsed)
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
1 tablespoon loosely packed fresh thyme leaves stripped from stem, with stems reserved
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 ounces anushka or red bliss potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons garlic (about 6 medium cloves), finely shaved
1 1/2 cups white wine
2 pounds cleaned mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup (about 8 ounces) peeled, seeded, and chopped Roma tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped parsley, with stems reserved
3/4 cup heavily toasted large bread crumbs or crumbled crackers
Prepare the corn: use a sharp knife to strip the corn kernels from the cobs. Set the kernels aside. Run the backside of your knife down the cobs—you will get a corn purée. Add the purée to the kernels. Cut each stripped cob into 4 pieces.
Prepare the leeks: cut the whites of the leeks into 1/2-inch dice (you should have about 2 cups). Slice the green part of the leeks crosswise until you have about 1 cup of thick coins. Wash the diced leeks and the leek coins, separately, several times in cold water to remove any grit (it’s fine if the coins separate).
Prepare the celery: trim off the top and bottom of the celery stalk and set aside, separately. Peel the remaining stalk and chop it into a 1/2-inch dice. You should have about 1 cup.
Make the broth: put the corn cobs into a large stock pot, along with the leek coins, the end trimmings of the celery, the bay leaves, chipotle peppers, and crushed fennel seed. Add 4 cups of water, or enough to just barely cover the cobs. Add the reserved stems of the thyme and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste, bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer, and cook for 35 minutes. Strain the broth into a clean pot. You should have 2 cups. Remove the chipotles from the strainer, put them into a bowl, and mash them with the back of a fork. Set aside.
Cook the potatoes: add the potatoes to the strained broth and bring them to a boil. Simmer for 7 minutes or until the potatoes are just tender. Remove the pot from the heat and allow the potatoes to cool in the liquid. If they are already quite soft, strain and cool separately, reserving the broth.
Cook the remaining vegetables: heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the diced leeks, the diced celery, and the garlic. Season with salt and pepper to taste and cover. Cover and cook for 3 minutes to soften the vegetables.
Remove the cover and continue cooking until the vegetables just start to color, about 5 miutes. Add the corn kernels, wine, thyme leaves, and the reserved mashed chipotles. Place the mussels on top of the vegetables.
Cover and cook until the mussels just open, 3 to 5 minutes. Discard any mussels that don’t open.
Prepare the mussels: transfer the cooked, opened mussels to a rimmed sheet pan and remove and discard their shells, saving the meat. Remove any remaining beards clinging to the meat, but leave any of the corn mixture that might be clinging to the mussels. Set aside.
Prepare the soup: add the broth with the potatoes to the saucepan that was used to cook the mussels. Add the cream and tomatoes and simmer everything for 4 minutes, until thickened. Add the mussels and chopped parsley and continue simmering just long enough to heat through, about 2 additional minutes.
Portion into serving bowls and top with crispy potatoes, bread crumbs, or crackers, to garnish.
8 to 10 servings