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2 pounds of fresh mussels, scrubbed and beards removed
1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups of mushrooms, oyster, button, or a mix, washed and soaked*
1 pound tagliatelle or other flat egg pasta
1 Tbsp neutral oil
1 sweet pepper of your choice, seeded and diced
1 large shallot or small onion, peeled and sliced
1-2 hot peppers of your choice, seeded and sliced
1 dozen or so shrimp (optional), peeled and de-veined
2-3 scallions, cut into rings
Scrub all of the mussels to remove any surface mud or dirt, note that most farmed mussels are already very clean. I like using a Japanese tawashi for this as it's very easy to use and to clean after. Discard any mussels that have off odors or won't close when you squeeze them as they are dead and not good to eat (note if they are very cold it may take a while for them to close as they will be in a state of torpor).
Using your fingers remove any beards. These are a piece of fiber that the mussel uses to attach itself to rocks. If you miss one or two it's not a big deal, they just can't be eaten.
Start heating 4 quarts of water and 1 1/2 tablespoons of sea salt (use 3 tablespoons if using a light and flaky kosher salt) in a large covered pot. Optionally add a makrut lime leaf.
In a cup mix the coconut milk, Massalis, and wine. Heat in a microwave until hot so the spices can release their flavors. You can also heat in a small saucepan if you don't have a microwave.
Place two large skillets (preferably cast iron or stainless as the mussels later can scratch non-stick) over medium-high heat and divide the mushrooms between them. Cook for 3-4 minutes to release liquid. At this point add the pasta to the pot of boiling water and transfer the mushrooms from one skillet to the other and spread them out.
Give the pasta a good stir to prevent it from sticking. In the empty skillet add the oil and onions and cook for 2-3 minutes, until translucent. Add the peppers and cook just until bright and tender (about a minute or two more). Remove the vegetables and mushrooms to a large bowl.
Raise the heat to high under both skillets, and after 30 seconds add the mussels. Let them sit for about a minute and a half, then start gently stirring them, adding the shrimp now if you're using them, cooking just until they open and the meats firm up, about 1-2 minutes more. Any that don't open are generally fine, contrary to popular belief (sometimes a few just fail to open when they cook).
Drain the pasta, reserving a bit of the water, and add the pasta to the bowl with the vegetables. If you'd like to shell the mussels to make the dish easier to eat (as pictured) you can, but it's just as tasty if you leave them in shell. The shells will not be very hot using this cooking method, so it's easy either way. Depending on how quick you are at it you can always start the pasta a bit later so it's done at the right time.
Add the mussels (and shrimp if you used them) to the bowl, along with the Massalis, coconut milk, and wine mixture and toss well to coat everything. If the sauce is thicker than you like add a bit of pasta water to thin it.
Divide between 4 bowls and top with scallions and Espelette pepper. Serve with toasted bread.
* Mushrooms sauté faster and better if you start with them wet and soaked, Not sure why but it's true.
• Try topping the finished dish with some crunchy fried shallots.
• This is delicious as more of a dry-prep with sautéd flat rice noodles. Reduce the coconut milk and wine by half, add a dash or two of fish sauce, then follow the recipe above. Instead of egg pasta, rehydrate flat rice noodles (or use fresh ones if you can find them). Shell the mussels at the end of cooking, mix everything together except the noodles and fry the noodles in 2 tablespoons of oil (divide them between the skillets to make it faster). Once the noodles have a bit of a sheen (2-3 minutes), divide the veggies, sauce, and mussels between the skillets and stir together for 30-40 seconds to combine. Serve with lime and chopped toasted peanuts.
• This dish works great with fresh pasta too. Timing-wise you'll want to start it right about when the mussels are done.
• And I've successfully made this dish outside as well, using a flat top griddle with a side burner. It's not really adaptable to wood cooking due to the pasta however.
Food images and recipe © Christian Leue.
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