Douglas Keane prepared this dish for his fiancée, Lael Newman, on one of their first dates; today, she asks him to make it whenever they can find beautiful fresh mussels at the fish market. Keane regards the fragrant combination of coconut milk and red curry as comforting and restorative—an equivalent to chicken noodle soup.
More Thai Recipes
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 shallots, minced
1 celery rib, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
3 garlic cloves, smashed
2 1/2 teaspoons Thai red curry paste
1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
1/2 cup coarsely chopped basil, plus several whole basil leaves, for garnish
1/4 cup coarsely chopped mint
2 1/4 cups dry white wine
2 cups water
One 13-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
1 1/2 teaspoons light brown sugar
2 kaffir lime leaves (see Note)
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
1 pound fingerling potatoes or small red potatoes
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper
8 scallions, thinly sliced
3 pounds mussels, scrubbed
How to Make It
In a medium saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil. Add the shallots, celery, carrot, ginger and garlic and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the curry paste and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the chopped cilantro, basil and mint and cook for 2 minutes; stir in 2 cups of the wine and boil until reduced by three-fourths, about 12 minutes. Add the water and boil until reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Add the coconut milk, brown sugar and lime leaves and boil for 5 minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the lime juice and fish sauce. Strain the curry sauce into a bowl.
Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan of boiling water, cook the potatoes until just tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and let cool slightly. Peel the potatoes and cut them in half lengthwise.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large nonstick skillet. Add the potatoes, cut side down, and cook over high heat until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the butter, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden all over, about 4 minutes longer. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes to a plate and top with the whole basil leaves; keep warm.
In a large, deep skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil until shimmering. Add the scallions and cook over high heat for 1 minute. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of wine and bring to a boil. Add the curry sauce and bring to a boil. Add the mussels and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until they open, 4 to 5 minutes. Discard any mussels that don't open. Spoon the mussels and sauce into deep bowls and serve with the crisp potatoes.
The curry sauce can be refrigerated overnight.
You can substitute two 1-inch strips of lime zest for the kaffir lime leaves.
These red-curry mussels are fragrant, rich and spicy all at once, words that can also describe the Gewürztraminer grape. Though it's not widely grown in Sonoma, a few terrific bottlings exist.
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