Thai red curry paste is a blend of red chili pepper, garlic, lemon grass and galangal. Here, it is used to flavor both the cooking liquid and the topping for the mussels. Refrigerate the mussels in their cooking liquid until you’re ready for assembly, then freeze the liquid to use as a soup base later on.
Try to buy large, meaty mussels rather than tiny ones. Before cooking, discard any mussels whose shells are cracked or gouged, or that do not close when lightly tapped. You can substitute sour cream for the creme fraiche, but the latter provides a richer finish. If the mussels are to be a buffet dish rather than a passed hors d'oeuvre, lay them on a bed of ice for serving.
Make Ahead: The mussels and their sauce can be cooked and refrigerated a day in advance.
Servings: 50 pieces
- 2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste, such as Thai Kitchen brand
- 1/2 cup dry vermouth
- 4 medium cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
- 4 pounds large mussels, cleaned and debearded (see headnote)
- 10 ounces (1 1/4 cups) creme fraiche (may substitute sour cream)
- 1- or 1 1/2-inch-piece peeled ginger root, finely grated or pureed (1 tablespoon)
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves, plus more leaves for optional garnish
- 2 tablespoons chopped scallions, white and light-green parts
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Sweet paprika or smoked Spanish paprika, for garnish (optional)
Whisk together 1 tablespoon of the red curry paste and the vermouth in a large Dutch oven until thoroughly incorporated.
Add the garlic and mussels. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook over high heat for 6 to 8 minutes, shaking the pot every few minutes. The mussels are done when all or most of them have fully opened.
Being careful to reserve the cooking liquid, transfer the mussels to a colander and rinse with cool water; discard any mussels that have not opened. (Count them to make sure you have about 50 cooked mussels.) Strain the cooking liquid into a mixing bowl; discard any solids.
Shell the mussels, reserving 50 nice half-shells (rinse or clean as needed). Place the mussels in the bowl with the cooking liquid. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use (up to 1 day in advance).
Just before serving, combine the creme fraiche, ginger, the remaining tablespoon of red curry paste, the chopped cilantro, scallions and salt in a medium bowl; mix well.
Place a mussel in each clean half-shell. Top with about 1/2 teaspoon of the creme fraiche sauce. If desired, garnish with a sprinkle of paprika or top with a cilantro leaf.
From Real Entertaining columnist David Hagedorn.
Tested by David Hagedorn.
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