The idea for this over-the-top recipe came to me in a flash last summer. I was thinking about an amazing dish I once ate at a taverna in Greece of broiled mussels with feta cheese and somehow at the same moment I was thinking about poutine, the classic Montreal dish of french fries with gravy and cheese curds (the mind works in mysterious ways). This recipe is the love child of these two incredible recipes, my Mussels Poutine with Tomato-Bacon Gravy.
For this dish, crispy, fried Russet potato slices are topped with a tomato and bacon gravy made with sweet caramelized onions and garlic. The acidity of the tomato gravy helps to cut down on the richness of the other ingredients and makes a great base for steaming the mussels. The dish is assembled, topped with cheese curds, and then placed under the broiler to get amazingly melty. I think this dish would be equally wonderful with feta cheese, but I used traditional cheddar curds in honor of my husband’s Wisconsin roots.
Between three of us, we couldn’t quite finish this poutine, so don’t get any wild ideas about doubling the recipe unless you’re serving this for a party. Enjoy the poutine with the rest of the bottle of dry white wine you used for the mussels. You’re going to need it!
Mussels Poutine with Tomato-Bacon Gravy
*serves 2 as a meal or 3-4 as an appetizer*
2 large Russet potatoes, sliced into ¼” disks
Oil or fat for frying (I used palm oil – beef tallow would also be a great choice)
3 slices thick cut bacon, diced
½ a large yellow onion, sliced into rings
3 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
1 C. canned, diced tomatoes
½ C. dry white wine
1# mussles, rinsed and debearded
1 C. cheese curds or crumbled feta cheese
freshly chopped Italian parsley, for garnish
For the best results, you’ll want to slice the potatoes about an hour ahead of time and place them into a bowl with plenty of cold water to remove some of the starch. After about 30 minutes, rinse the slices thoroughly and place them onto a kitchen towel in a single layer to dry thoroughly, another 30 minutes. I placed a second kitchen towel on top and pressed lightly to absorb extra water. In the meantime you can prep all of your other ingredients.
Once the potatoes are thoroughly dry, heat your oil or fat to 300 degrees in a high-sided pot. Fry the potatoes (in batches if necessary) until just beginning to soften but not yet become brown, about 4 or 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to cool thoroughly and turn off the heat under the oil.
While the potatoes cool from their first frying, start on the tomato-bacon gravy. Cook the bacon in a large pot with a tight-fitting lid until crispy (you’ll be steaming the mussels in it later). Remove the bacon and set aside, leaving all of the drippings behind. Add the onion and a generous pinch of salt to the bacon fat and cook for 8-10 minutes or until caramelized, stirring often. Add the garlic and cook one more minute, and then pour in the diced tomatoes. Reduce the heat to low and simmer while you get set up to finish the dish.
Begin to heat your oil again for the second frying of the potatoes, this time to 350 degrees. Be sure your mussels are cleaned, debearded, and unopened. Lastly, preheat your broiler to high, placing an oven rack about 4 or 5 inches below it.
When your oil is ready, fry the potatoes a second time until golden brown and crispy, about 3 minutes. Transfer the fries to another paper towel in a single layer and sprinkle generously with salt.
Return the crisped bacon to the tomato-bacon gravy. Add the wine as well and increase the heat to medium-high. Once simmering, add the mussels, stir thoroughly once, and cover to steam for 3 – 4 minutes or until the mussels are just opened.
In the meantime, layer the potatoes in the bottom of a broiler-safe baking dish. Once the mussels have opened, transfer them with a slotted spoon to sit on top of the potatoes. If the sauce is still at all watery, allow it to reduce a little and then spoon the chunky tomato-bacon gravy atop the mussels. Sprinkle with all of the cheese and place under the broiler to melt, watching carefully to prevent burning.
Once the cheese is sufficiently melted and just beginning to brown, remove the pan from the oven, sprinkle with the freshly chopped parsley, and serve the poutine immediately. We piled our potato slices high with shelled mussels, spoonfuls of tomato-bacon gravy, and hunks of melted cheese curds.