So there we were in Mosselbaai (direct translation – Mussel Bay) on the South Coast of South Africa, the greatest country in the world. All set for a feast of mussels on the ‘Jan Braai vir Erfenis’ TV show. But as luck would have it, the sea was hit by a severe case of red-tide at the time, and we could not eat any fresh mussels due to the health hazzard. Now you cannot make a braai TV show in a town called Mussel Bay and not eat any mussels, so my attention turned to smoked mussels. And this is where we got lucky. The red-tide forced me to develop one of the greatest sauces ever to grace the presence of a medium rare braaied steak. My process started by looking at the intricacies of the classic Carpetbag steak, something described as “a luxury dish, probably of American derivation”. We went way beyond that.
- 6 steaks of about 300g each
- oil or butter
- 1 onion (chopped)
- 3 cloves garlic (crushed)
- 250g bacon (1 pack – diced into blocks or strips)
- 250g mushrooms (1 pack)
- 1 lemon
- 2 x 85g tins of smoked mussels (drained)
- 250ml fresh cream (1 cup)
- 50g – 100g pecorino or parmesan cheese (grated)
- salt & pepper (to taste)
- Fry the chopped onion in the oil or butter until it starts to get personality and then add the crushed garlic and diced bacon. Sauté until it starts to stick to the bottom of the pan.
- Add the mushrooms and stir-fry for another minute.
- Add the two tins of drained smoked mussels and gently toss. From here on in, go gentle so that the mussels to not break apart to much.
- Squeeze the juice of half a lemon into the sauce and gently toss.
- Mix in half a cup of the cream. As the sauce thickens later, you can mix in the other half of the cream as well.
- Add the grated cheese and gently toss. If you cannot get hold of pecorino, just use aged white cheddar.
- Test the sauce and add salt & pepper to taste.
- If the sauce is getting a but thick, add the rest of the cream.
- Keep the sauce warm.
- Braai the steaks over very hot coals for 7 – 10 minutes until medium rare. Here is a complete description on how to braai the perfect steak.
- Serve the smoked mussel sauce on the perfectly braaied steaks.
If you cannot get hold of smoked mussels, use tins of smoked oysters.
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