Thursday, January 29, 2015

Thai Style Mussels

I really love singing whilst cooking. Is that weird? I think it's an awesome way to pass the time, especially if the internet's just gone a little wonky, which has caused Netflix to cut out, and I can't do anything about it because I can't touch my iPad because I'm in the middle of kneading dough. I especially love taking upbeat songs and transforming them into slow songs - imagine Superbass as a ballad - and making up my own tunes (usually the lyrics describe my current mood or activity). I'm not super talented or anything (this isn't some sort of braggy introduction), but I do have a knack for imitation and one of my favorite numbers to belt out is Toni Braxton's Unbreak My Heart. Hey, I'm a 90s kid, okay? Anyway, if you ever become a close enough friend - you know, the type of friend where I feel like I can do anything shame-free - then you might one day be blessed enough to witness an up-close and personal live concert from moi.

My number one fan is my dog, George Michael, who loves to sit in his little bed whenever I'm cooking. If he sees me heading for the kitchen, he'll come down to observe, and probably to hope that I have some snacks that I can share while I'm chopping. He'll take a little snooze usually but if I start singing, his tail will start wagging and sometimes, he'll get up and come over and give me a little smooch on the knee. Probably to show his appreciation and say, "Nice song, mama! Keep going!"

I always have a lot of fun in the kitchen. And I almost always look forward to cooking a meal, especially when it's been planned out. That's what today's dish was like. I had been taking trips to the fishmonger here and there and buying whatever looked good and was recommended by the guys at the counter. During one particular trip, I was buying clams when I noticed that they also had a pile of really pretty looking mussels. I bought a big bagful and when I told my sister, we both said, "We should make them Thai style!" at the same time. We planned the meal to be enjoyed over the weekend and the anticipation was fun, the cooking was fun, and of course, the eating was really fun.
Ingredients [serves 4]:
mussels
2 lbs mussels
1 teaspoon oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
3 Thai chilis, sliced
1 teaspoon grated ginger
2 teaspoons minced lemongrass
½ onion, sliced
½ bell pepper, sliced
1 lime, juiced
2 teaspoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce
handful Thai basil
handful cilantro
2 cups coconut milk
+ scallions for garnish

dipping sauce
1 lime, juiced
1 teaspoon minced lemongrass
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 handful cilantro
1 teaspoon sugar
There isn't much preparation when it comes to mussels because most of the time, they are farmed. That means they're not sand-laden. However, I know that de-bearding mussels is a thing (luckily I didn't have to do that; sounds so gross). Also, checking if they're alive is also important. Sort through the mussels and pick up any that have their mouths open. Give them a gentle tap on the countertop. If they close up, then they're good. If they stay with their mouths open, they're dead and need to be tossed.
After the mussel sorting is finished, get the ingredients ready. Chop up the chilis and scallions, slice up the onion and bell pepper, mince the garlic and ginger and lemongrass, and grab the herbs. Pull the leaves off of the cilantro - save the stems - and bruise the basil to help it release more flavor.
Grab a wide and shallow pan and pop it over a medium heat. Add in a little oil and then throw in the garlic, ginger, lemongrass, onions, and bell peppers. Let the onions soften and then throw in the cilantro stems and basil.
Then, chuck in all of the mussels.
Pour in the coconut milk, squeeze in the lime, add the fish sauce, and stir in the chili garlic sauce.
Give it a gentle stir, because a violent stir will cause the mussels to be flicked out of the pan, and then pop a lid on. Let the mussels cook for 8 to 10 minutes until they steam and open up.
Garnish the pan with the stripped cilantro leaves and scallions and serve while they're still good and hot.
And, if you're so inclined, make a little dipping sauce. Just mix together lime juice, chopped cilantro, fish sauce, lemongrass, and a little sugar.
It's so easy but crazy delicious.
We had ourselves a delicious Thai meal. Thai style mussels, jasmine rice, and pad kee mao. The broth that the mussels were cooked in is a delicious sauce to spoon over the jasmine rice. Jasmine rice is such a delicious epicurean sponge.

The mussels are tender and incredibly flavorful. Swirling each little shell into the sauce was compulsory; slurping the sauce out of the shell was also compulsory.
I like to use the mussel shell like a pair of tongs to pull the meat out of other mussels. Do you ever do this? I learned about this in French class because apparently, that's how les français mangent ses moules (the French eat their mussels).
Here's the recipe page:

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