Monday, May 07, 2007

first timer- Mussels with Cilantro Chutney Cream sauce

We're visiting my parents for the first time this year. When I was younger, I grew up on the east coast near the water, fresh seafood, beach, delicious sushi (this has nothing to do with east coast, I just like to throw it in the mix) and other wonderful east coast things. It's really hard to come by fresh seafood in the Midwest so when I visit my parents or visit DC/Va, I eat as much seafood as one can cram in a weekend trip. It's plenty to last me a while.

My seafood fascination mostly includes salmon, tuna, mahi mahi, shrimp and crab cakes. However two weekends ago when I visited DC, I went out to a delicious French restaurant with a friend's family. It was her birthday dinner, a treat from her dad. Her family had just returned from a trip to Paris and was craving good French food. There, we ordered mussels for appetizer. Now mind you, prior to that evening I had never tried mussels. The mussels were prepared in a butter/parsley sauce. And they were delish, a new fascination to add to my seafood list! So when the hubby and I planned this trip to visit my parents, I knew I would buy mussels to make as an appetizer.

It was my first time preparing them and I was nervous. Though mussels aren't hard to cook, it was the cleaning and preparing the sauce I was worried about. I knew my parents wouldn't try them because they don't like seafood. (Don't ask) If they didn't taste great, the hubby wouldn't try them either, that’s a lot of pressure! I thought to myself, I must come up with an appetizing recipe that'll keep him coming back for more. From much research I saw recipes with wine, garlic and butter sauce and/or a Thai version with coconut, ginger and lime sauce. But I wanted a cilantro and lemon juice based sauce so I combined multiple recipes to make my own version of mussels with cilantro cream sauce.

I love cilantro. I can't get enough of its flavor, aroma and fresh color when cooked in a dish. A lot of people believe cilantro is strong but I think it's a good form of strong. Because it's the main ingredient for this recipe, this is my entry to Weekend Herb Blogging hosted by Cooking with Rinku. Kalyn at Kalyn's Kitchen started weekend herb blogging many weeks ago and it's been a huge success. She as well as some guest hosts have been hosting this weekly event for 81 weeks. Long time right?

Mussels with Cilantro Chutney Cream sauce

2 lbs mussels
olive oil
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 cilantro chutney (recipe follows)
1/3 cup heavy cream
Salt & Pepper
Lemon juice

Mussels should be closed, and shells should be unbroken or uncracked. If mussels are open tap them to close; if they don't close they are dead, discard.

Soak mussels in cold water for 20- 30 minutes. This will allow excess dirt and grit to fall to the bottom of the bowl. Take the mussels out of cold water and leave in a strainer to drain. Do not dump the dirty water over the mussels. Scrub mussels with a clean toothbrush on both sides (multiple times). Debeard the mussels with your fingers or kitchen tweezers by pulling the fibers toward the hinged point of the shell.

In a large sauté pan (big enough so mussels can be cooked in one layer), heat olive oil on medium heat. Add chopped garlic and sauté for 3 minutes. Add cilantro chutney to the pan and cook for 4 minutes. Stir the mixture so garlic and chutney combines with the oil. Add cream, stir, and cook until the mixture bubbles. Add salt and pepper. Lower heat to medium low and add mussels. Cover and cook for 5- 7 minutes. With a slotted spoon, take out mussels onto a serving platter. Any unopened mussels must be thrown out. Continue to cook the cilantro cream sauce until it thickens, 2-3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and drizzle over mussels. Squeeze lemon over the mussels and sauce and serve.

First time but really worth it. If I can find fresh mussels around here, I’ll certainly make it again. I may even try it one of the other ways, with a lemon/butter sauce or with a thai twist.

Yields 2 servings for appetizer or 1 serving for main dish

Cilantro Chutney, this is from an Indian recipe. We use this as a dipping sauce for fried vegetable fritters, samosas and chaat papdi. It’s a versatile chutney so I always have it on hand. With an addition of olive oil, I recently started using chutney to make my own salad dressing.

1 bunch cilantro
3 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
1 teaspoon finely chopped jalapeno pepper
1/4 cup small fine sev, yellow dried noodles found at any Indian grocer. (sev comes in small, medium and large size) If you can’t find sev, boiled potatoes or peanuts are a great replacement. It is used as a binding agent for the chutney.
1 teaspoon lemon juice
salt to taste

Blend all the ingredients until smooth. Serve as is with a favorite dish or use to make an exceptional sauce for mussels.


Katie said...

We're just coming into mussel season here and I cook them lots...I have to admit that I don't soak them or scrub them with a brush, though..... I do clean the barnacles off if there are any and de-beard them, though... Long habit of only doing the minimum work! LOL

liberal foodie said...

Katie, because it was my first time I didn't want to find dirt on the sauce half way into eating. It took a while so that wasn't fun but the end result was great.

Kalyn Denny said...

I love mussels, but I've never cooked them at home. This sounds like a great recipe. You just can't go wrong with cilantro!