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2 pounds of fresh mussels, scrubbed and beards removed
1/4 cup full-fat coconut milk
1 tsp fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp neutral oil
1 small shallot, peeled and minced
1 green hot pepper of your choice, seeded and sliced
Cilantro fronds for garnish
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.
In a cup mix the coconut milk, Massalis, makrut lime leaves, and lime juice. Heat in a microwave until hot. You can also heat in a small saucepan if you don't have a microwave.
In a large heavy skillet that will fit all the mussels in a single layer (don't use nonstick as the mussel shells will scratch it), heat the oil over medium heat.
Fry the shallot and green pepper until the shallot is softened, about 3 minutes.
Push the veggies to the side of the pan, raise the heat to high, and after 30 seconds add the mussels. Let them sit for about a minute and a half, then add the coconut milk and start gently stirring them, 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).
Garnish with the cilantro and serve hot. Great with a bit of rice or toasted bread. Note that there will not be a ton of liquid in the pan. If you like your mussels saucier you can always add 1/4 cup of stock and/or white wine to the coconut milk.
• To serve 4 people with 2 pounds of mussels, fry some additional vegetables like sweet peppers, onions, and mushrooms. Remove and set aside. Double the coconut milk, fry the mussels as above and add the vegetables at the end of cooking. Serve over egg noodles.
• This technique and recipe works great with a 50:50 mix of mussels and whole shrimp. Try adding a pinch of Sillery to balance the richness of the shrimp.
Food images and recipe © Christian Leue.
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