Po'pei Mussel Platter


This unusual dish is served at Belgo restaurants in London and Dublin. It is derived from a recipe discovered in Belgium by one of the restaurant's original owners and is named after a certain spinach-loving sailor of comic-strip fame -- none other than Popeye.


  • ½ cup bacon, diced

  • 80 mussels (about 2 ¼ pounds), scrubbed and debearded

  • 1 ½ cups water

  • 1 ½ cups dry white wine or Belgian beer

  • 1 bay leaf, preferably fresh

  • 4 cups heavy cream

  • 1 pound spinach, well washed

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 3 shallots, finely chopped

  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped

  • Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

  • ½ cup grated Gruyere

  • ½ cup grated cheddar cheese

  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper


  1. In a medium skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp and brown, about 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a paper towel -- lined plate to drain.

  2. Place mussels in a large pot. Add 1 1/2 cups water, the wine, and bay leaf. Cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Steam until mussels open, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain, and cool slightly. Remove mussels from shells. Discard half of shells. Place mussels in remaining shells, and transfer to a baking sheet.

  3. Simmer cream in a small saucepan until reduced by half, about 2 cups. Prepare an ice bath. Bring a medium pot of salted water to boil. Add spinach, and blanch until just wilted, about 15 seconds. Transfer to ice bath to stop cooking. Squeeze spinach very dry. Place in blender.

  4. Heat butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots and garlic; cook, stirring, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add to blender with spinach. Add reduced cream, nutmeg, 1/4 cup Gruyere, 1/4 cup cheddar, salt, and pepper. Puree until well combined.

  5. Heat broiler. Evenly spoon spinach mixture over mussels. Top with bacon and remaining 1/4 cup of each cheese. Broil until heated through and bubbling, about 2 minutes. Serve immediately.

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