Steamed mussels with a Thai accent
At Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Tavern, executive chef Nicholas Elmi calls his style of cuisine “contemporary American tavern fare.” The open-ended label encourages creativity and gives the talented chef the freedom to craft dishes that reflect America’s melting pot. Consider his Thai curry mussels, which borrow flavors from Thailand to make a French-inspired dish feel refreshingly exotic. In Elmi’s iteration, a splash of sake and a squeeze of lime juice bring the flavors of a sweet coconut-curry broth into focus. Serve the steamed mussels for a weeknight supper with slices of crusty bread to mop up all that delicious broth in your bowl.
Thai Curry Mussels
Recipe adapted from Nicholas Elmi, Rittenhouse Tavern, Philadelphia
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 lemongrass stalks, lightly smashed and thinly sliced
2 shallots, finely chopped
One 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1½ teaspoons Thai red curry paste
4 curry leaves or Thai basil leaves
4 kaffir lime leaves or finely grated zest of 2 limes
Juice of ½ lime (about 1 tablespoon), plus more for seasoning the broth
½ cup sake
One 13.5-ounce can light coconut milk
1 pound Blue Hill Bay mussels
Sriracha chile sauce, for serving
Crusty bread, for serving
1. In a medium saucepan, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the lemongrass, shallots and ginger; cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes.
2. Add the curry paste to the saucepan and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the curry leaves, kaffir lime leaves and lime juice. Add the sake and stir to scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the saucepan. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the sake has reduced by about half, about 5 minutes.
3. Add the coconut milk to the saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes to let the flavors meld.
4. Meanwhile, scrub and rinse the mussels and remove any beards. Discard any mussels that are open or have cracked or broken shells.
5. Return the broth to a boil and add the mussels. Reduce the heat to medium, cover the saucepan and cook until the mussels open, about 4 minutes. (Discard any mussels that do not open.)
6. Season the broth with additional lime juice and sriracha. Divide the mussels and broth between two bowls and serve immediately with crusty bread.
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Stop by the Rittenhouse Tavern next time you’re in Philadelphia.