Wednesday night, when it was fiercely hot and muggy and then came a wild storm that cooled things off, I made dinner for two friends. I'd had that irresistible yearning for mussels that comes upon me from time to time, and since this is a dish that's hard to do for one, I made the evening into a little party. I don't know the "right" season for mussels, but it must be around about now since the ones I got were amazingly plump and juicy. Made even more so with this fragrantly flavored sauce that's so simple that a person can come home from a hectic day 45 minutes before guests are due to arrive and do the preparations and still have a nanosecond or two to relax before they arrive.
Susan, one of my guests, brought a beautiful baguette for dipping purposes. We warmed it up at 200 degrees for 10 minutes, which it made well nigh perfect.
I picked some beautiful lettuces from my garden for a salad to follow, but we were so sated from the mussels, their broth, and the bread that we took a breather before polishing off fresh fruit salad and slices of banana bread with chocolate chips.
I don't drink much wine these days, but I slurped down a fair amount of the South African Mulderbosch, a most delicious and refreshing Rose that's become a summer staple amongst my friends. It was perfect with the mussels. Which I hope you'll enjoy as much as we did.
4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 Thai chiles, thickly sliced
One 1½-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 cup cilantro leaves
Finely grated zest of 1 lime
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Two 13½-ounce cans unsweetened coconut milk
Juice of 2 limes
One 11- to 12-ounce bottle lager
5 pounds mussels, scrubbed
In a food processor, combine the garlic, chiles, ginger, cilantro, lime zest and olive oil and process to a paste; transfer to a large bowl. Whisk in the coconut milk and lime juice and season with salt.
In a large soup pot, bring the lager to a boil over high heat. Boil until reduced to ½ cup, about 7 minutes. Add the mussels, cover and cook, shaking the pot a few times, until the mussels just begin to open, about 4 minutes.
Uncover the mussels and stir in the coconut milk mixture. Cover and cook, shaking the pot a few times, until all of the mussels open, about 8 minutes. Spoon the mussels and broth into bowls and serve.
The recipe can be prepared through Step 1 and refrigerated overnight.