Happy Monday! How was your weekend? We’ve been busy over here, catching up with friends and jam-packing our schedule ever since our Whole30 ended. I guess that’s one way to deal with not being able to eat all of the things — avoidance.
For those of you just tuning in, last month we spent 30 days avoiding grains, dairy, alcohol, legumes and processed sugar. When the hubby and I told people what we were doing and why, the first response we usually got was, “Oh, so, like, you can’t eat anything?” That’s what I thought too when we first started this experiment — that my lunchtime would be filled with sad little plates of wilted lettuce, where I’d peel and eat a whole hard-boiled egg when the going got tough. While I love a good hard-boiled egg every now again, it was a sobering thought that I might have to Cool Hand Luke a bunch of them for a month in order to keep myself from the brink of angry starvation.
I didn’t have to shove 50 eggs down my gullet to stay sane, fortunately, and what I’ve learned is that there’s a big difference between the foods I love to have versus the kind I need to have. By putting some major focus on just the very best, cleanest foods we can eat, I’ve discovered a world of delicious food without carbs, dairy and sugars. I have tons more natural energy that stays consistent throughout the day, and I rarely feel bloated or overstuffed from one of our clean meals. As I wrote a few weeks ago, we really, really love that Whole30 has pushed us outside our comfortable weekday rut of chicken and fish and forced me to buy other healthy proteins, like steaks (small ones, of course), clams, mussels and shrimp. One of our new favorite dishes are these Whole30 red curry mussels, which I spoon over zucchini noodles just before serving.
Cooking with mussels might seem intimidating, but really it’s so incredibly easy. The most important step happens before you even let those mussels hit the pot: you have to clean and de-beard them. Cleaning your mussels ensures that gritty sand and dirt doesn’t get cooked into your delicious soup. I use a clean toothbrush (dedicated solely to the task of cleaning shellfish) to gently scrub each mussel down while running my fingers over the closed edges to see if there are any “beards” that need removing. Removing the mussel’s “beard” (the part where the mussel connects to rocks in the water) is pretty easy — just take a firm grasp of the end of the beard and give it a good tug to make sure it separates cleanly from the edge. Sometimes I’ll go back with my kitchen shears and use them to cut off any stray bits and pieces of the beards. After I give my mussels a good individual brushing down, I heap all of them into a colander and then give them a gentle rinse under more cold water.
The red curry in these mussels is truly magical — I use Thai Kitchen Red Curry paste to build a flavorful, coconut-milk broth that is full of intense curry flavor. Sure, I could make my own curry paste, but I usually make these mussels as a weeknight meal, and who has time for that? Maybe I could make a batch of it and freeze it? If you have any advice on this, I’m all ears. For now though, and to make it easy for a weeknight, I’d buy Thai Kitchen’s red curry paste (it’s also Whole30 compliant). The curry paste releases its layers of flavor as you saute it (before adding coconut milk), so by the time you add the mussels, there’s this wonderful, rich curry occupying every corner of your pot.
The curry broth changes character as the mussels poach in it — the mussels have a natural brine that add a nice saltiness to the red curry broth, so I wouldn’t season it with additional salt until you’ve had a chance to taste the curry after the mussels are steamed. The broth also works great for clams. See this:
By the way, last month I bought a 5-quart Le Creuset braiser, and I don’t like to play favorites in my kitchen with any of my equipment, but I LOVE HER. I’ve been telling the hubby for months that I wanted a large, flat open dish for simmering meats and curries, and I found one on clearance recently at a kitchen store near our house. The wide, shallow shape allows me to heat my curry evenly and provides more breathing room for things like mussels and clams to open. I find myself reaching for this braiser a lot for even more unconventional uses, like making a giant pan of fried rice or a breakfast scramble. Yesterday, as I lovingly wiped her clean and placed her back in the cabinet at the end of the night, I whispered to her, “See you tomorrow!” Too much? Yes, it’s probably too much.
Lastly, I’d be remiss if I didn’t address the elephant in the room with this dish. Do you want to know what really, really tastes good with these curry mussels? Toasted baguette. I know, I know. I’m supposed to be healthy, and admittedly, I haven’t yet done this, but ohh do I ever want to. With a toasty baguette, though, you can make sure to soak up every last delicious drop of the leftover curry broth. You should totally do it.
Meanwhile, I’ll be over here, crying on the inside.
- 2.5 pounds mussels, cleaned and debearded (for a how-to, see description above)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 tablespoons Thai Kitchen red curry paste
- 1 14-ounce cans of full fat coconut milk (do not use light)
- ½ cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 large limes
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro
- 2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- 3 zucchini, spiralized
- Zest one lime, then cut in half. Set aside.
- Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy-bottomed stock pot with a tight-fitting lid and add curry paste. Saute curry paste for about 1-2 minutes, breaking up any large clumps. Add coconut milk, broth, fish sauce and lime zest. Juice lime into the pot and allow the whole mixture to come to a boil.
- Add mussels, reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Steam the mussels until they're opened, about 5-7 minutes.
- While mussels are steaming, put spiralized zucchini in a large serving dish. Slice the second lime into wedges. When the mussels are done, spoon the curry sauce and mussels over the zucchini noodles, allowing the zucchini to soften a bit. Sprinkle the cilantro and basil over the mussels, then add lime wedges around the sides. Serve immediately.
- Note: this dish can also be made with littleneck clams, but be sure to build in more time to steam the clams, as it generally takes longer for them to open than mussels.
This recipe was inspired by this Bobby Flay/Food Network recipe