Theme of the day: Relax. I have a tendency to over-plan, over-control, so sitting on the beach alone watching the sun go down felt radical (that gives you an idea of how indoorsy my life has become). The sun and salty breeze cleared my head like nothing else, and I must say, sitting in silence outdoors is life-affirming.
All that ocean must have gotten into my head because I left with a craving for mussels. Mussels! I've never made mussels, and I don't feel comfortable preparing seafood, but there I was, feeling relaxed and open to something new.
Your Basic Ingredients (ignore that soy sauce, what is it doing there?)
I love mussels in white wine, garlic, and parsley. But I've been in an Asian mood lately (in case you can't tell), so I veered toward something Thai inspired.
This may look like a complicated recipe, but it's essentially three QUICK steps: (1) Pulse the sauce ingredients; (2) simmer the sauce; and (3) steam the mussels. The resulting dish was pleasing. I was expecting something spicy and full of zest, but instead, it brought to mind a good Thai curry. Next time, I'll experiment by adding less coconut milk, more lime and chili, plus lemongrass and galangal.
I should go to the beach more often.
Steamed Mussels in Chili, Lime, and Coconut Milk
Tip: Ladle leftover sauce over jasmine rice, with an extra dose of chili and cilantro leaves! It's like a shortcut Thai curry.
Sauce Part 1:
- 1 tsp. grated ginger*
- 2-3 cloves garlic
- 1 lime, zest and juice
- Chili pepper (deseeded and sliced) or chili sauce, to taste**
- 2 tbsp. coconut milk***
- 2 tbsp. fish sauce
- 1 tbsp. packed cilantro leaves, plus extra for garnish
- 1 shallot
Sauce Part 2:
- 1 can coconut milk minus the 2 tbsp used in Part 1, above
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 lb. mussels, scrubbed clean and beards removed (discard any that do not close with a rap of the knuckle)
- Vegetable oil or other neutral cooking oil
- Extra cilantro leaves for garnish
* Steamy Kitchen taught me freeze fresh, grated ginger in plastic wrap. It works.
** I used the Homemade Sriracha I made for Steamy Kitchen last week. It's too spicy to use as a condiment but just right for infusing a sauce with heat.
*** To avoid a heavy dish, I used a light coconut milk.
PREP SAUCE PART 1: Use a handheld immersion blender* or food processor to blend the ginger, garlic, lime zest, lime juice, chili pepper or sauce, coconut milk, fish sauce, and packed cilantro leaves. Dice the shallot separately.
* I love my new Cuisinart SmartStick!
SAUCE PART 1: Heat the vegetable oil in a large saute pan over medium to medium high heat. Add the shallots and saute for a minute or two, until the shallots give off a delicious aroma. Then add Sauce Part 1 and stir to combine with the shallot. Cook for 3-5 1-3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it reduces and thickens (in the photo, you can see how the sauce gradually thickens). You may have to lower the heat to prevent burning.
SAUCE PART 2: Add the white wine to the pan and scrape up any stuck brown bits. Let this cook for 1-3 3-5 minutes, until it reduces and thickens (you can see the sauce thicken in the photos above). Add the coconut milk. Stir thoroughly. Taste and season if necessary (I added more fish sauce to balance the sweetness of the coconut milk).
Edit: Whoops! It was so late when I wrote this, I mixed up my steps. Sauce 1 won't take long to give off its aroma, and it's after you add the white wine that you want to let the sauce reduce.
MUSSELS: Bring the sauce to a boil then add the mussels. Lower the heat to a simmer, cover the pan, and cook for 2 minutes. After 2 minutes, remove the cover and check to see whether the mussels have opened. If not, cover the pan again and let it steam for another minute.
PLATE: When the mussels are done, remove from heat and discard any mussels that have not opened. To serve, arrange the mussels in a bowl, ladle the sauce over the top, squeeze a lime over the mussels, and garnish with cilantro leaves.