Monday, June 1, 2009

Mussels steamed with white wine and curry leaves

After my last post I started searching around for recipes using more than a single sprig of curry leaves. I didn't find many; curry leaves are pretty powerful and you generally don't need a whole lot at a time. This recipe, though, called for a full quarter cup. Also, I've been looking for an excuse to have mussels again. They're pretty expensive here in Miami so I'm not buying them on a regular basis like I was back in New York.

This recipe is an Indian-fusion variation on how I, and everybody else, prepare mussels. Fry up some aromatics, add white wine (or beer you're Belgian) and mussels and steam until they're done. I usually used French herbs, Italian if I was adding tomatoes. Really, the only change this recipe makes is to switch the flavors to south Indian.

Mussels Steamed With White Wine And Curry Leaves
Adapted from Raji Jallepalli, Restaurant Raji, Memphis

TOTAL TIME: 30 minutes

* 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
* 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
* 1 cup finely chopped, seeded plum tomatoes
* 1/4 cup fresh curry leaves (sold in some Indian markets) or cilantro leaves [despite my desire to use a whole bunch of curry leaves, I used three sprigs of each for a little extra complexity.]
* 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds, crushed in a mortar
* Salt to taste
* 2 pounds scrubbed, debearded mussels
* 3/4 cup dry white wine

1. Heat the oil in a large lidded saucepan. Add the onion, tomatoes and curry leaves or cilantro, and cook, stirring, over medium heat until the vegetables soften.

2. Stir in the cumin, and cook a few minutes longer, until the onion starts to brown. Season with salt.

3. Add the mussels and wine, cover and cook over medium heat until the mussels open, about 8 minutes. Serve at once.

YIELD: 2 servings

* Originally published with American Palates Awaken To the Bold Tastes of India; As the latest fusion star, creative Indian cuisine vies with its Asian rivals.
* By FLORENCE FABRICANT, New York Times, March 25, 1998

I recall the European version of this dish as hearty and rustic, but I think I used a lot more chunky vegetables and went heavy on the basil, hot pepper and oregano. Here, the broth is light and the curry leaf, cumin and cilantro float aromatically above. I neglected to pick up naan so I served it over rice which may have been a mistake as it holds on to a lot of the broth making it hard to get a spoonful of it with a bit of mussel. I had a second riceless bowl and found that the flavors do match well. Specifically, there's a slightly challenging funky edge to both curry leaves and mussels that blend nicely together. If you've had both separately, you know what I mean.

I don't think you could make a satisfying main dish out of this no matter low large the serving or how much rice or bread you served with it. The flavors are too delicate and it leaves you wanting something a bit more substantial. Still, this is a lovely elegant appetizer.


kat said...

I could see Matt really loving the flavors in this, I just can't get myself to love mussels

billjac said...

It would probably work, although not quite as well, with other shellfish. I think crab would be best.