Tale of the plate: Collard green curry mussels


March 27, 2024

Courtney Evans cooks a dish of mussels.

with Corn Flour Roti by Courtney Evans

by Asha Ellison | photographs by Peter Taylor

Some would say a good chef is one with impeccable technique, achieved through formal training and years of experience. Others might say a remarkable chef is one who can simply bring people to the table — someone who knows how to diligently plan and execute a menu and manage a crew, who is innovative, passionate and willing to learn beyond the classroom. Courtney Evans, chef de cuisine at Charlotte’s “modern juke joint,” Leah & Louise, is a unicorn in her own right — she’s a good mix of both. 

The adventurous cook began her culinary career when she was 19 years old, moving up the ranks rapidly after graduating from Johnson & Wales University. Following an internship at The Sanctuary at Kiawah, Evans joined Leah & Louise as a line cook in 2020 working under chef Greg Collier, who was twice nominated for a James Beard Award. She quickly advanced to junior sous chef, then co-head chef, and into her current position as chef de cuisine in just three years. 

Now 25, Evans doesn’t chalk up her success to luck — she recognizes her role as an apprentice under the leadership of other talented cooks, starting with those she admires most. 

“I learned traditional cooking from my dad, but I learned the innovative, adventurous and creative flow from my mom,” Evans says. And as fond as Evans is of her flavorful foundation, she’s excited about the future she is cooking up for herself. She calls it a journey of self-discovery.

“I’m trying to find my food voice,” says Evans, who was born in Danville, Va., and raised in Columbia, S.C., and New York, where she was immersed in Caribbean culture. But she’s also a southern girl at heart. “My mom now lives in Sumter, S.C., so I’ve got roots all along the East Coast that I like to honor through my cooking.”

For Evans, creativity in the kitchen flows from nostalgia. She prefers to make food that feels familiar, like her collard green curry mussels with corn flour roti (a round flatbread). The dish reminds her of the robust jerk seasonings and curry spices she recalls from her early years in New York. 

“My mom would make this curry dish two to three times a week,” Evans laughs. “She would pull out her deep silver pot with the gold handles, and I’d just be like ‘again?!’ But those are the things I didn’t appreciate until I moved away.”

And just as memories of dancing around the kitchen, card-playing and family fellowship feed chef Courtney’s spirit, she offers up a dish that warms the soul and fills the belly, like cornbread and collard greens, as fuel for the journey — both yours and hers. 

Collard Green Curry Mussels with Corn Flour Roti

serves 3-4


2 pounds mussels

1 shallot, sliced 

2 cloves garlic, minced 

2 tablespoons oil for cooking

Curry sauce 

1 bunch collard greens, roughly chopped 

2 Fresno or jalapeno peppers, roughly chopped with seeds 

2 medium shallots, rough chopped 

5 garlic cloves, whole 

2 bunches of cilantro, rough chopped 

2-3 kaffir lime leaves 

1/8 cup fish sauce 

3 tablespoons salt

1/4 cup blended oil 

2 13.5-ounce cans coconut milk 

Corn flour roti 

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour 

1 1/2  cups corn flour 

1 teaspoon baking powder 

1 tablespoon salt 

1 1/2 cups of warm water 

1/2 cup melted butter 


Make the curry sauce: 

Put all ingredients into a blender except coconut milk. 
Blend in batches if needed, depending on blender size, until mixture starts to incorporate. 
Add coconut milk and blend until smooth. The sauce should be loose to pour.  

Make the roti: 

Mix all dry ingredients into a bowl.
Add a tablespoon of the melted butter and slowly add in warm water until dough is formed. Dough should be soft and smooth. If the dough is too wet, add flour. If it’s too dry, adjust with water.

After dough is formed, cover with a damp towel and let dough rest for five to 10 minutes. 

After rest, portion dough into 4-ounce balls and roll into discs. Brush melted butter on each disc, just enough to cover. 

Cut the disc halfway down the middle and roll the dough up to form a cone-like shape. Take the cone, tip side up, and press dough into itself. You should be able to see little rings 

Now, on the second roll out, dust your table with flour. Roll dough into a large disc. 

Heat a skillet over medium heat and brush with oil. Take the roti and lay it into a pan. Cook the first side until golden for about 2 minutes, then flip for 2 minutes on the other side. 

Place cooked roti on a cutting board. This is the most important part: take both hands and scrunch up the roti. This is how you see all the layers you rolled into the dough! 

Prepare the mussels:

Heat a large saute pan over low medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil to the pan.

Add cleaned mussels, shallots and garlic to the pan. Saute for 2-3 minutes, until the mussels just start to open, then add 2 cups green curry sauce. Saute for another 2-3 minutes. 

Pour into a serving bowl and top with corn flour roti.  SP

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