Mussel, spinach and bacon gratin

Mussel, spinach and bacon gratin

The River Cottage Fish Book
Simon Wheeler

Moules marinière meets creamed spinach and gets an irresistible gratin top. This is the kind of simple but unexpected dish that gets people very excited.


Quantity Ingredient
2 tablespoons white wine
1 shallot, diced
1kg mussels, scrubbed and debearded
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus a little more to finish
150g smoked bacon or pancetta, diced fairly small
1 fat garlic clove, finely chopped
400ml whole milk
50g unsalted butter
50g plain flour
500g fresh spinach, thoroughly washed, tougher stalks removed
a squeeze lemon juice
75g fresh white breadcrumbs
freshly ground black pepper
50g cheddar cheese, grated, (optional)
or 50g parmesan cheese, grated, (optional)


  1. Place a large pan over a high heat and add the wine, 2 tablespoons of water and the diced shallot. Bring to a simmer, then throw in the mussels and cover with the lid. Let them steam open in the pan for 3–4 minutes, shaking the pan once or twice. Remove the mussels from the pan with a slotted spoon (discarding any that have remained firmly shut) and set aside until they are cool enough to handle. Pick the mussels from their shells and set aside. Strain all the cooking liquor through a fine sieve, or a coarse sieve lined with a cloth.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, add the bacon and sauté gently until starting to crisp up. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute or so, being careful not to let the garlic burn. Remove from the heat and transfer to a bowl.
  3. Now you need to make a béchamel sauce. First, combine the reserved mussel cooking liquor with enough milk to make 500 ml and heat gently in a pan. Melt the butter in a separate pan. When it is foaming, add the flour and stir well to make a smooth roux. Gradually add the warmed milk, stirring well after each addition to prevent lumps. Bring to a simmer and cook gently for 4–5 minutes to give a smooth, creamy sauce.
  4. Drop the spinach into a large pan of boiling water and cook for just a minute, until wilted. Drain, leave to cool a little, then squeeze out excess water with your hands. Chop the spinach roughly.
  5. Fold the bacon, mussels and spinach into the béchamel sauce. Season with freshly ground black pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. Divide the mixture between 4 buttered shallow ovenproof dishes (or 6 ramekins if you’re serving it as a starter) or spread it evenly into one large buttered gratin dish.
  6. Sprinkle over the breadcrumbs, plus the cheese if using, and trickle over a little olive oil. Bake in an oven preheated to 200°C for 10–12 minutes, until golden and bubbling. Serve piping hot, with crusty bread.

Also works with:

  • Cockles and palourdes.
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