A few weeks ago I made a delicious and healthy salmon dinner with jasmine rice and a coconut-tomato sauce. The success of that dish gave me the confidence to continue cooking with ingredients that are less familiar to me. When I recently decided to make mussels for dinner, it took me about 30 seconds to figure out that I wanted to use coconut milk again.
With the amount of food blogs I pore over daily, and thus, the high amount of recipes I’ve bookmarked as “must try,” I quickly scanned my shellfish folder and came across this: Coconut Curry Mussels.
Um, yes, please!
Given our neighborhood (a heavily Thai-influenced part of Queens, NY), I knew that finding these ingredients would not be a problem. Off to the store we went!
I think a lot of people are intimidated by cooking mussels or clams, but there’s really nothing to it. Additionally, they’re a very economically-friendly meal. One pound of mussels (easily 4 servings) only set us back $3.99. You might be able to find a better deal elsewhere, but at $4/lb, this would be a great dinner party option. Added benefit? The final product is stunningly beautiful.
General rule of thumb when cooking mussels or clams: if the shells are open before cooking, they’re dead. If the shells remain closed after cooking, they’re dead. You will almost always comes across a few dead mussels or clams — just toss them out.
Begin by placing the mussels in a bowl of cold water. Let sit for 10 minutes. The mussels will release any sand or grit that they’re holding onto. Repeat once more with fresh water to make sure they’re really clean. At this point, throw out any mussels that are open.
Next, you’ll have to debeard the mussels. There are tiny little threads that come out of the shell. Just use your fingers and pull them out. (I always always always give this job to John. He’s just so good at it/I don’t like doing it.)
For some unexplainable reason, I always associate mussels with shallots. They go really well together. Heat oil in a large pot, then add the shallots and onion. Cook for a few minutes until they become soft. Add the thai chili, ginger, and curry powder, then stir for a minute until fragrant.
Word of advice: after slicing the thai chili, do not touch your eyes, your nose, your mouth… don’t touch anything that you don’t want to burn. I learned this the hard way back when I was working in a restaurant.
Add the chicken broth and reduce by half.
Here’s my lemongrass chopped and smashed (left) and kaffir lime leaves (right):
Add the coconut milk, salt, lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves and bring to a boil.
Another tip: the can of coconut milk makes for an excellent lemongrass smasher. Aka: use the can (or some other heavy object) to bang on the lemongrass pieces.
Add the mussels, reduce heat to medium and cover with a tight fitting lid. Cook for 6-8 minutes, or until the mussels open.
Discard any mussels that have remained closed.
To serve, spoon mussels and broth into large bowls, garnish with chopped cilantro, lime wedges, and a few pieces of crusty bread.
…and by a “few pieces” I mean a whole loaf. You’re going to want extra bread to soak up the delicious broth.
We both really enjoyed this recipe (John moreso than I, however). I would make this again, but I would reduce the amount of ginger and lemongrass as I thought they were overpowering. Also, I would substitute white wine for chicken broth, but that’s just a personal preference.
For our friends who have visited us here in our apartment, may I just say that I finally felt like I belonged!
Thai Coconut Curry Mussels
*Recipe adapted from Simply Recipes.
Yields: 4 servings
TIme: 30 minutes
- 2 lbs of mussels, cleaned and debearded
- 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 2 shallots, chopped
- 1 thai chili, thinly sliced
- 3 teaspoons of ginger, minced (next time, I’d cut back on this)
- 1 ½ tablespoons red curry powder
- ½ cup of chicken broth (could substitute white wine)
- 1 can of coconut milk (13.5 fl. oz.)
- Kosher salt
- 1 stalk of lemongrass, chopped into four pieces and smashed
- Chopped cilantro
- Lime wedges
- Optional: 3 kaffir lime leaves
- Place mussels in a bowl of cold water so the mussels will spit out any sand or mud. Let them sit for 10 minutes. Drain and repeat.
- Toss any mussels that are open as these are dead. Debeard the mussels by pulling on the threads that stick out of their shells. Place mussels in a bowl of cold water until ready to use.
- Heat oil in a large pot and add the shallots and onion. Stir for a few minutes until soft. Add the chili, ginger, and curry powder and stir for a minute until fragrant.
- Add the chicken broth and reduce by half. Add the coconut milk, salt, lemongrass, and kaffir lime leave.
- Add the mussels, reduce heat to medium, and cover with a tight fitting lid. Cook for 6-8 minutes, or until the mussels open. Discard any mussels that remain closed as these are dead.
- To serve: Spoon mussels into a large bowl, pour over broth, then top with chopped cilantro, juice from lime wedges, and a few pieces of crusty bread.