Sunday, August 26, 2012

spicy coconut mussels with lemongrass and lime.

It always amazes me how people consider mussels to be a luxury food; one of those foods you only order when out for dinner at fancy restaurants where the waiters fold your napkin for you every time you get up to go to the bathroom.  Mussels should not be considered a fancy food, I think they should be a food you make to have a weekday evening feel a little more special.  I love mussels because they cook in less than 5 minutes, you can buy a 2 pound bag for 6 bucks, and all they require is a side salad and a baguette to round out the meal.  I have made many sauces to serve mussels in – tomato and wine based, beer and chorizo, but my favorite is spicy coconut mussels.  Coconut milk makes the perfect base for the sauce – it’s rich and creamy and when combined with Siracha you have the perfect amount of spice that offsets with the sweet.  The beauty of this dish is that all the flavors intermingle and bring an amazing complexity.  Cilantro and basil round out the sauce and bring a most wonderful herb earthiness to the dish.  Dinning alfresco only makes this a more wonderful experience but I also love this in the winter time as a cozy dinner for two.

Spicy Coconut Mussels with Lemongrass and Lime
Serves 3 (or 2 generously)

2 lbs mussels, picked over for any open mussels and beards removed (if they have them)
2 tablespoons oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks lemon grass, outer layers removed, interior minced
1 inch piece of ginger, grated (easiest if you freeze the ginger first and use a microplane)
2 teaspoons tomato paste
2 – 3 teaspoons Siracha or thai curry paste (depending on how hot you like your food)
1 can coconut milk (no lite coconut milk!)
2 limes, 1 quartered and 1 halved
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon salt
1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
15 – 20 basil leaves, chopped

In a large stock pot heat the oil, when hot add the garlic and lemon grass, stir until just beginning to brown and fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add the ginger to the pot and stir to mix with the garlic and lemon grass, about 30 seconds.  Add in the tomato paste and Siracha (or thai curry paste) and stir to create a paste with the garlic, lemon grass, and ginger.  Pour in the coconut milk and stir (it will turn a lovely pinkish red color from the tomato paste and Siracha!).  Squeeze the lime that you halved into the pot, and then add the honey and salt.  Taste!  If you want it hotter add some more Siracha.  If it needs some more salt, add that as well. 

Allow the mixture to come to a boil and then pour the mussels into the pot.  Cover the pot and turn the heat down to medium.  Allow the mussels to cook undisturbed for about 4 minutes until the mussels open.  After 4 minutes, check the mussels, if they aren’t open, cover and cook for another minute.  When the mussels are open, mix in the cilantro and basil.  Serve with wedges of lime, toasted baguette, and plenty of napkins. 

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