Recipe Review: Coconut Curry Mussels

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Coconut Curry Mussels

Wanna try ’em: Go here for the recipe

My fiancé Chris is an amazing guy; he’s smart, funny, very sweet, and takes wonderful care of me. My only real complaint is that he’s a very picky eater. He won’t eat dishes including shellfish, sour cream, green onions, mayonnaise, hot peppers, mustard, or any sort of vinegar. Sometimes it makes weekly meal planning depressing, I mean a girl cannot live only on tacos and chicken and dumplings.

The mussels in an ice bath with the other ingredients

The mussels in an ice bath with the other ingredients

Chris was out of town this past weekend, which meant I had a whole 2 days to eat anything my little heart desired. I decided to cook a batch of steamed mussels. I love mussels. They’re not super expensive and are really fun to eat (it’s great to be allowed to use your hands and slurp!).  I used to make them regularly in college to reward myself after a project, big exam… or just for surviving a Tuesday. I always steamed them in a lovely tomato-basil broth, but this time I wanted to try something different. Instead of heading down the traditional route and cooking the mussels “a la Parisienne” (in white wine, garlic and herbs) I went Southeast Asian with a coconut curry broth.

Red Curry Paste

Red Curry Paste

This recipe from “How Sweet Eats” requires a few tablespoons of red curry paste. Red curry paste is a little miracle in a jar; I can’t believe I’ve never used it before! It has red peppers, lemongrass, and ginger… basically everything that makes Thai food delicious.  After I swirled a few spoonfuls into simmering coconut milk, the house smelled like my very own Shangri-La.

Mmmm broth of heaven

Mmmm broth of heaven

From start to finish the mussels and their broth take around 20 minutes. The little mollusks seem like they’d be a pain to prep, but they’re really not too bad. They just need to be checked for beards and scrubbed a bit before they can be tossed into the pan. The only thing I didn’t enjoy was having to repeatedly dunk my hands in ice water to retrieve the sleeping bivalves.  One taste of these delicious morsels made the discomfort totally worth it.

A pan full of cooked mussels....my tummy is rumbling!

A pan full of cooked mussels….my tummy is rumbling!

Make sure you have a large sauté pan or wok for steaming the mussels. I find it’s best if all the little shells are steamed in one layer. This helps to ensure that each mussel gets a spoonful of yummy broth. You’ll want to make sure you have a lid that fits snuggly over the pan, as you don’t want the steam to escape and the mussels to stay closed.  As my picture illustrates…the lid doesn’t have to match to make a good seal.

Why yes that's the lid to my dutch oven. Don't judge

Why yes that’s the lid to my dutch oven. Don’t judge

These coconut curry mussels are like potato chips; you can’t eat just one….bowl. They’re fragrant from the curry paste, sweet from the coconut milk and just all around addictive.  I ate 2 full bowls and wanted to try for a third, but then common sense (aka my tight fitting yoga pants) prevailed.  Make sure to have an extra bowl on the table for all the empty shells. You’ll also need some crusty French bread to soak up all the leftover broth, because it would be a crime to leave any remnants of that divine liquid.

Coconut curry mussels and french bread, a match made in heaven

Coconut curry mussels and french bread, a match made in heaven

 

This meal is great for a date with someone special or for a sunny Saturday afternoon alone with a good book and a glass of wine. Though I missed my fiancé over the weekend, these coconut curry mussels softened the blow.  Hmmm….maybe Chris should go out of town more often!

A Perfect Saturday afternoon

A Perfect Saturday afternoon

 

A bowl of the spoils

A bowl of the spoils

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Pasta Carbonara: A 2 Cats Recipe

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Pasta Carbonara: A 2 Cats Recipe

A plate of Pasta Carbonara, one of the best things

A plate of Pasta Carbonara, one of the best things

I always have an overabundance of eggs in my fridge. My boss raises chickens in her backyard and sends me home with a carton of eggs weekly. She knows I’ll put them to good use and bring some treat or leftovers into work. Last summer, I brought in brownies or pound cake ever few days. Though my boss and fellow teachers were initially pleased with the baked goods they eventually began to complain about their expanding waistlines and tight fitting yoga pants.

Eggs from my boss

Eggs from my boss

I went home this week with a new carton of eggs and had a dilemma; what was I going to make this time? Almost instantly, I thought of pasta carbonara. It includes four of my favorite things: pasta, cream, cheese and bacon in a breakfast themed bowl of perfection. I mean really, how could that not be delicious? I also happen to know it’s a preferred meal for another member of the 2 Cats household. I’m sure it would be a favorite for all if Tchai and Zelda had opposable thumbs….

 Zelda says "I want some, I'm not sure what it is, but I want some"

Zelda says “I want some, I’m not sure what it is, but I want some”

Tchai also hopes for pasta

Tchai also hopes for pasta

A carbonara recipe can be a lot of things to different people. I’ve seen some include onion and/or peas. The eggs are sometimes fried and in some cases raw yolks are used. The protein of choice could be prosciutto or bacon. I’ve seen carbonara sauces include every kind of hard Italian cheese with every sort of pasta imaginable. In other words, the variations are endless. My carbonara is a rif on David Rocco’s very classic recipe. I prefer to use fettuccine pasta but spaghetti is yummy too. Parmesan is my cheese of choice but pecorino and asiago cheeses work well if that’s what you already have. Carbonara is about simple indulgence not shopping list anxiety.

The carbonara ingredients

The carbonara ingredients

Mixing the pasta together

Mixing the pasta together

Putting the dish together takes half an hour to forty minutes, with most of that time being spent on cooking the bacon and pasta. Once the pasta is al dente it takes less than five minutes to toss the fettuccine in the egg mixture and have it on the table. The carbonara is yummy right out of the skillet, but I found (as we decided to do an impromptu dinner invite ten minutes into cooking) that carbonara room temperature is pretty good as well. It’s eggy and creamy with bits of crunchy salty goodness from the bacon and parmesan. I’m not sure how the pasta faired as leftovers, I gave it to Chris to take with him for lunch and await his report.  Unfortunately for my boss however, she’s going to have to wait for the next batch of Carbonara for me to bring it to work!

The completed carbonara

The completed carbonara

 

yum

yum

Pasta Carbonara

1 lb. fettuccine

½ Cup grated Parmesan

4 Eggs

4 ounces bacon (4 or 5 strips)

1 Cup Half & Half

Salt & Pepper

A pinch Garlic Powder (optional)

Fry bacon in a large skillet until crisp reserving some of the bacon grease in the pan. Let the bacon cool and the crumble, set aside. Cook pasta until al dente. While the pasta cooks, whisk together eggs, half & half, parmesan, garlic, a pinch of salt and a lot of ground pepper. Once the pasta is cooked and drained, return pasta to the skillet with the bacon grease. Toss the pasta with the egg mixture and bacon on low heat for 2 – 3 minutes until the sauce begins to form. Plate the pasta and top with more ground black pepper.

I'm still waiting mommy.....

I’m still waiting mommy…..