Thursday, February 18, 2016

Fennel & Coconut Mussels

I think I can speak for all Fijians when I say that we LOVE our coconut milk. Growing up one of my jobs was scraping the coconuts to squeeze out fresh coconut milk. There is nothing in the world like fresh squeezed coconut milk. But in the states we use canned which is good but not great. Oh the sacrifices we make! 
Coconut is constantly paired with seafood in Fiji- everything from seaweed to clams to fish. We call it lolo and it might just be seafood's best friend. 
While I'm backing up my boyfriend on his recent health movement- I made these awesome fennel and coconut mussels. The flavor profile is much more Thai than Fijian but the end result is just damn delicious. Plus mussels are such a cheap seafood so it's worth giving these a try! 

Fennel & Coconut Mussels 

2-2 1/2 lbs raw mussels (check for cracked or already opened mussels and discard, remove beards*) 
2 to 2 1/4 cups fennel, small dice 
3 lemongrass stalks, roughly hammered with the back of your knife OR 2 tbs of jarred lemongrass with juice 
2 tbs cilantro, minced
1 tbs basil, minced
2 tbs scallions, minced 
1/2 jalapeño, minced with seeds (optional  if you don't want spice/heat) 

1 medium shallot minced, about 1/2 cup 
3 garlic cloves, minced 
Zest of 1 lime 
Juice of 2 limes 
1 1/2 tsp ginger, grated 

1- 14 oz can of lite coconut milk 
2 tbs cornstarch 
2 tbs canola oil 
2 tsp salt
Fresh pepper to taste 
1/2 tsp ground coriander 
1 1/2 tbs Thai green curry (optional if you want stronger Thai flavors- I did not add this) 

Large pot or Dutch oven with lid 
Wooden spoon 
Cutting board 
Chopping knife
Measuring cups/spoons 
1 large bowl 
Colander or strainer 

In the large bowl add your mussels. Be sure to remove all the cracked or already open mussels. Sometimes you can tap the open mussels to see if they will close up- if they do, you can still cook with them. Make sure you never seal the raw mussels in a bag or container. They need air to survive so make sure your fish monger pokes holes in the bag or open the bag before refrigerating. Pour the 2 tbs of cornstarch over the mussels and then fill bowl with water making sure to cover the mussels. Allow to sit for 15 minutes. This helps get rid of any sand or grit remaining in the mussels. After 15 minutes strain and rinse under cold water. Set aside in fridge for cooking. 

Heat canola oil in the large pot over medium heat. Once hot add fennel and shallots. Cook for 5 minutes or until shallots become opaque. Add the garlic, ginger and jalapeño. Cook for another 3-4 minutes. The fennel should begin to soften by this point. 

Once fennel begins to soften, add the coriander, salt and pepper. Cook for another minute. Pour the coconut milk in and turn the stove to low. Add the lime zest and lime juice. If using fresh lemongrass (my store was out so I had to use jarred) add now. Simmer everything for 10 minutes- allowing flavors to meld. Taste at this point to see if you want more salt or pepper. 

Now add mussels, cilantro, basil and scallions. You can reserve some fresh herbs to toss on top when serving as well. Cover the pot with the lid and cook for 5 to 7 minutes- stirring half way. The mussels should be open and ready to eat.

Remove from heat and serve immediately- adding fresh herbs if you want. You can serve it with rustic bread to dip in the sauce. These might be my new favorite mussel recipe! Enjoy! Xo

*This is a mussel's beard and should be removed by pulling it off or cutting it off with scissors. 

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