Little Neck Clams in a Coconut Chile Sauce

I finally picked this book up from the library today. I've seen lots of good reviews, and I was in the mood to make something adventurous. I decided that tonight would be the night that I'd finally try out cooking mussels. I got to this cute little gourmet market about 10 minutes from home, and got all of the ingredients...but they were out of mussels! I was so disappointed, but I really wanted to make this dish, so I opted for little neck clams instead.

The broth is fantastic - it's so spicy and flavorful! I used serrano for the pepper and it was hot without being overwhelming. I served this with some crusty bread for dunking into the luscious broth. It worked out really well. The only problem with this dish is that I accidentally overcooked the clams. It was my first time working with shellfish (other than shrimp) so I should have peeked into the pot more frequently to see when the shells opened. I'll keep that in mind the next time I venture into the land of shellfish. It was super easy and made for a beautiful presentation. I definitely won't be shy to cook with clams or mussels again!



Mussels in a Coconut Chile Sauce (Thisri Kooman)
660 Curries: The Gateway to Indian Cooking - Raghaven Iyer

This specialty from the Konkani-speaking community of Hindu Goa, along India's west coast, could not be any easier to prepare. The delicate flavor of the mussels is enhanced by sweet coconut, and the chiles add a mellow pungency. Pass around hot steamed white rice so your guests can pour the delicious broth over it to savor every last drop.

Serves 4

5 pounds mussels, in the shells
1 cup shredded fresh coconut; or 1/2 cup shredded dried unsweetened coconut, reconstituted (see Note)
1/2 cup firmly packed fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
1 teaspoon coarse kosher or sea salt
2 large cloves garlic
2 fresh green Thai, cayenne, or serrano chiles, stems removed

1. Pile the mussels into a large bowl. Quickly go through them and discard any broken or cracked shells. Scrub each mussel (although the ones available at any supermarket are actually quite clean) and remove the beards (2 or 3 strands dangling from one end of the shell - rather like a straggly goatee or a pubescent boy's chin). Tap the shell if it's slightly ajar. If it closes shut, the mussel is alive and usable. If it does not shut, discard it, since this means it is dead. Plunk the prepared mussels into a colander and give them a good rinse.

2. Pour 1 cup water into a blender and add the coconut, cilantro, salt, garlic, and chiles. Blend, scraping the inside of the jar as needed, to form a puree.

3. Bring 1 cup water to a boil in a large stockpot over high heat. Add the mussels and cover the pot. Cook, shaking the pot occasionally so they cook evenly, until they all open up to reveal plump, off-white meat, about 5 minutes. Discard any mussels that remain shut.

4. Add the pureed mixture to the stockpot and stir into the mussel-flavored broth, which will now turn green. Ladle some of the broth over the mussels to baste them a bit as you cook, uncovered, until the broth has warmed up, 1 to 2 minutes.

5. Pour the mussels and broth into a large serving bowl, and serve.

Note: To reconstitute coconut, cover with 1/2 cup boiling water, set aside for about 15 minutes, and then drain.

MacGourmet Rating: 4 Stars (possibly 5 depending on using mussels and not overcooking)

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