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Spicy Mekong Mussels

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We adapted this scrumptious recipe from one we saw in The New York Times.
As author Melissa Clark wrote, “There are some recipes that are all about showcasing the main ingredient … And then there are recipes that are all about the sauce ... Mussels steamed in coconut milk, lemon grass, garlic, and chilies definitely fill the latter bill.”
Spicy Mekong Mussels
Cook time 35 minutes
Serves 2 (just double the proportions to serve 4)
2 tablespoons organic canola oil or organic macadamia nut oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Fresh ginger root (1/2 of a thumb-sized piece), sliced thinly (optional)
Fresh turmeric root (1/2 of a thumb-sized piece), sliced thinly (optional)
1 stalk lemongrass* or galangal*, trimmed (outer layers removed) and finely chopped
1/2 to 1 small Serrano, ancho or jalapeño chili pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
2 pounds Pacific blue mussels, thawed and rinsed well
Zest of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon lemon juice, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon Asian fish sauce, or to taste
1/2 cup whole cilantro leaves (or basil or Kaffir lime leaves)
Fresh baguette to slice
*If you can’t get these, use more lemon zest.
  • Heat the oil in the bottom of a large pot until hot. Add the shallot, garlic, lemon grass, ginger, turmeric, and chili pepper. Cook over medium heat until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the coconut milk and mussels. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook for 3 to 5 minutes (our mussels come par-cooked; discard any that remained closed).
  • Remove from heat, and use a slotted spoon to transfer the mussels to a large bowl, leaving the liquid in the pot.
  • Stir the lemon zest and juice, fish sauce and cilantro (or basil or Kaffir lime) leaves into the pot. Taste and add more fish sauce and/or lemon juice if needed (fish sauce provides the salt).
  • As the mussels cook, heat the broiler. Toast the baguette slices lightly.
  • Put the mussels and sauce in two wide, shallow bowls. Serve with toasted baguette slices.
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