ROCKLAND, Maine — Red Curry Mussels -Serves 2
12 oz/355 ml coconut milk
2 tbsp/29 g red curry paste (preferably Maesri brand)
1 lb/454 g mussels, cleaned and debearded
5 basil leaves, Thai if you have it, or a combination of mint and basil
8 sprigs cilantro
1 tbsp/15 ml Thai fish sauce, or to taste
Some rice or bread for dipping (optional)
Grab a large, heavy-bottomed, nonreactive saucepan. First, render some coconut fat: Put 3 tablespoons/45 ml of the coconut milk in the pan. Boil on medium-high heat until the milk stops bubbling, but before it starts smoking; this will only take a minute. Add the curry paste and stir vigorously so that it cooks in the fat briefly; don’t brown it. Add the rest of the coconut milk and whisk for 20 seconds or so, until the liquid is an even, deep red. Taste and add more curry paste if you want it spicier.
Add the mussels to the pan and cover. Cook for 5 to 8 minutes, occasionally giving them a gentle stir. When most of the mussels have opened, add the basil and stir gently. Let sit for 1 minute, or until you can smell it. Remove from the heat and garnish with the cilantro. Squeeze the lime over the mussels and squirt with plenty of fish sauce. Serve with rice or with bread for dipping.
Chef’s Tip: Look for green-lipped mussels for this dish, if you can’t find Maine mussels. The best are three years old or less. How can you tell? Mussels grow rings every year, like trees, so you can look at the shell and see how many there are. Generally rope-grown mussels are freer of grit. If your mussels are wild or you just want to be safe, purge them first. Cover the shells with cold salted water and add a half-handful of cornmeal. Give it a stir every once in a while. After a couple of hours, the mussels will have eaten the cornmeal and spit out the sand.