Thai Red Curry Mussels

Thai Red Curry Mussels

From December 26, 2008:  Don’t be afraid of mussels.  They have been a human food source for thousands of years.  Although there have been cases of mussel poisoning due to toxins from “red tide”, bad mussels can easily be avoided.   The U.S. government monitors the levels of toxins in  coastal water “fishing” areas and issues warnings if the toxin levels get too high.  To be extra safe, don’t consume mussels in the warmer months (especially ones from the West coast), when red tide is more apt to occur.  A good rule of thumb is the old adage:  Months with an “R” in their name (September to April) are said to be the “in” season for mussels.  A few other tips will make sure you get the best mussels you can get.  First of all, buy your mussels from a reputable source.  Ask to make sure the mussels are fresh (not more than 3 or 4 days since harvest) and make sure they are stored on ice.  Most retailers sell mussels that have been cleaned of sand and grit.  If not, there are instructions on how to clean mussels on the internet…it’s an easy process, but it takes an extra day.  It is also important to discard any mussels that are opened (tap the open mussels – if they close they are alive and fine to cook, if they do not close, toss them) or have broken shells.  After cooking, never eat a mussel that has not opened.  Just keep these few things in mind when buying and preparing mussels and everything will be fine.

This particular recipe poduces yummy and flavorful mussels..  They are great for an appetizer (for several people) or a meal (for a couple of people).  Serve with fresh crusty French bread to soak up the sauce.  To make it a meal, add a crisp salad, and a nice wine.

Thai Red Curry Mussels

1 can unsweetened coconut milk
3 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
1 1-inch piece ginger (or galangal), minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 stalk lemongrass, minced
2 tablespoons fish sauce (nam pla)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 to 2 pounds fresh mussels, de-bearded and scrubbed
3 kaffir lime leaves (frozen or fresh), finely julienned
4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (reserve 2
tablespoons for finishing)
4 tablespoons chopped Thai basil or Italian basil
leaves (reserve 2 tablespoons for finishing)

Rinse the mussels under cold water, checking to make sure they’re clean. Discard any mussels that are
open(and do not close when tapped) or have broken shells.  Set aside.

Add the coconut milk, curry paste, ginger, garlic, lemongrass, fish sauce, lime juice, kaffir lime leaves, and 2 tablespoons each of cilantro and Thai basil to a heavy Dutch and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring. Add the mussels, cover the pot, and let steam until mussels are opened, about 4 to 5 minutes. Be careful not to overcook them, or they will be tough.  Discard any mussels that have not opened. To serve, carefully pour mussels and sauce into a serving bowl (or spoon into individual bowls).  Sprinkle with the remaining cilantro and basil leaves. Serve with a loaf of fresh French bread to soak up the juices.

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