Thursday, March 27, 2014

Mussels Throwdown – Thai Coconut & Basil vs. French Moules a la Mariniere


I thought it might be fun to have a throwdown with mussels – Thai coconut basil mussels vs. French Moules a la Mariniere, or mussels in white wine. Mussels in white wine are a specialty of my husband Meakin and the Thai coconut basil mussels recipe is one we recently tried from Cooking Light.

Both recipes are very easy and can be put together in 30 minutes. I’m always surprised when I hear people say they think mussels are difficult to prepare and it’s just not true. Cultivated mussels can be found in most supermarkets today and no longer have beards so they don’t have to be cleaned as they once did.

In the Thai coconut mussel dish we added lemongrass for a bit more flavor, but if you can’t find lemongrass, don’t worry. It’s not absolutely necessary because the fish sauce adds a nice layer of flavor and the lime juice perks up the sauce. I find that if fresh basil is heated it turns black, so we waited until the last minute to add it. This is a very light and colorful dish and if you want to make it a bit more substantial, you can serve it with scallion rice.


Moules a la Mariniere, or mussels steamed in white wine, is a French classic bistro dish that you may remember from our archives and we serve it often. Meakin steams the mussels in a wine and chicken broth mixture, finishes them with tomatoes, cream and a dash of Pernod, an anise flavored French liquor, and dinner is served before you know it. We like to keep a bottle of Pernod on hand so we can use a splash of its citrusy anise flavor in seafood to give it a Mediterranean twist and a taste of Provence. In the south of France Pernod is sipped as an aperitif called pastis. Typically waiters bring small glasses of Pernod on a tray to your table with a pitcher of cold water for diluting the strong green liqueur, making it turn cloudy and yellow.

Pastis 
There is no doubt in our minds which of the two recipes won our vote for the throwdown – the French mussels in white wine. Moules a la Mariniere is a true classic and the flavors come together beautifully without overpowering each other. We never tire of eating it. The Thai coconut and basil mussels were light and make a nice dish to serve in the spring, but the flavors didn’t capture us in the long run and the sauce was a bit thin. We live to eat and are always trying new recipes, so no recipe ever goes to waste. But we might be just "a bit" prejudiced when it comes to the Moules a la Mariniere, so we would love to hear from you.


Coconut and Basil Steamed Mussels
Adapted from Cooking Light – serves 2
Printable recipe

2 teaspoons canola oil
¼ cup minced shallots
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 cup light coconut milk
2/3 cup water
1/3 cup low sodium, fat free chicken broth
About a 3” piece of fresh lemon grass, 1" of the root end crushed with a knife, optional
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon fish sauce
½ to 1 teaspoon Sriracha chili sauce
24 mussels, about 1 pound, scrubbed and de-bearded if necessary
Slivered fresh basil leaves

Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat and add oil to pan, swirling to coat. Add shallots and garlic to pan and cook 2 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently to make sure neither burn. Shake the can of coconut milk well, then stir in along with the milk, water, broth, lemon grass, lime juice, sugar, fish sauce and Sriracha and bring to a boil. Add the mussels to the pan, cover and cook 5 minutes or until shells open.

Remove mussels from the pan with a slotted spoon and reserve the broth mixture. Remove lemongrass and discard. When mussels are cool enough to handle, remove most of them from their shells and save a few with shells for presentation. Throw away any mussels that did not open. Bring broth to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Divide the mussels between 2 serving bowls. Pour 1 cup of hot broth over each serving. Sprinkle with slivered fresh basil and serve right away. Nice with crusty bread for dipping or serve with scallion rice, recipe below.

Scallion rice
Combine 1 cup water, 1/2 cup jasmine rice, 1 teaspoon butter, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1 thinly sliced green onion in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes; remove from heat. Let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.


Mussels in white wine a la Chez Meakin - Moules a la Mariniere 
By Meakin Hoffer from My Carolina Kitchen - serves 4
Printable recipe

3 pounds of small cultivated mussels, scrubbed and debearded if necessary
1 leek
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups chicken broth (we like the low sodium & fat free variety)
1 cup dry white wine
1 - 14.5oz can whole tomatoes
½ cup of half & half or cream
2 capfuls of Pernod (optional)
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

Rinse the mussels in water, scrub and de-bead if necessary. Cut the dark green leaves off of the top of the leek and discard them. You will be left with the light green leaves and white end. Cut the roots off of the white end and discard it also. Cut the remainder of the leek in half lengthwise, rinse well under running water to remove any dirt, and shake dry. Cut each half of the leek in half again and thinly slice.

Add the olive oil to a large non-aluminum stock pot and set the heat to medium. Sauté the leek and garlic in the olive oil for 3 to 5 minutes to soften, taking care not to brown. Add the mussels in their shells, chicken broth and wine to the stock pot and stir well. Raise the heat to medium high. Cover and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the mussels open. Discard any mussels that do not open.

Remove the stock pot from the heat and allow the mixture to cool. When it is sufficiently cool, carefully remove the mussels from the liquid and pick them from their shells, leaving a few in their shells for a garnish.  Discard the remaining shells.

Add the mussels back to the liquid in the stockpot along with a can of whole tomatoes which you have gently crushed with your hands along with their tomato liquid. Stir, then bring the mixture to a boil, immediately turn the heat down to medium low and let it simmer about 10 minutes. Add the half & half, Pernod if using, a good pinch of cayenne pepper and salt and pepper to taste. Let it heat through. Serve immediately in bowls with chopped fresh parsley for garnish. Accompany with slices of a crusty French baguette for dipping.

* * *

Thank you for your kind words of encouragement with regard to my physical therapy. I've had therapy several times in the past and I've just started this round. It has been more painful than I expected and I hope to have that portion of the treatment corrected by the time you read this. Thank you again for caring. It means so much to me.

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, Foodie Friday at Simple Recipes, and Comforts of Home Tasty Tuesday.

Have a great weekend everyone.

41 comments:

  1. I love mussels and prepared with white wine is my favorite. I bought mussels lase summer at the Fresh Market in a net bag. Most of them were broken and bad. Unfortunately we were preparing paella for dinner with friends that evening and ended up tossing them out. Do you buy yours at Publix? Is there a brand you prefer?

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    1. Penny, what a shame they were broken and bad. We buy ours from a local fish market when we're in Florida. When we're in the mountains, we go to a good size seafood restaurant that also has a small fish case where he sells stuff over the counter to the public. I would suggest seeking out a local fish market and if they sell also seafood to restaurants, all the better.
      Sam

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    2. Both dishes look great. We spend our summers at our second home in Oregon, near the coast. Last summer my husband picked mussels for the first time. They were delicious, will try these recipes this year.

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  2. Your presentation is so pretty:)

    We enjoy mussels too:)

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  3. We buy mussels often, but I have never found totally debearded mussels. I have understood that when the beard is ripped off, they start to die. I would love either recipe posted here. Have not found a mussel I have not loved. Hope you are doing well with the PT. Being pain free is such a blessing. Curious where the seafood restaurant in the mountains is that sells the mussels. :)

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    1. Susan, the seafood restaurant is Mike's in Blairsville. We always call before we go there to get seafood to see if he has what we want. His selection varies, especially during winter when things are slow. He has ordered things for us too.
      Sam

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  4. Two wonderful recipes! I am really attracted to the coconut and basil steamed mussels.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  5. YUM. I love mussels but have never been brave enough to make them myself. Perhaps this summer.

    And I have just finished up physical therapy, having used up all that was allotted in my health insurance. The rest of the recovery I have to make happen myself - I wish both of us luck.

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  6. My daughter would love these dishes. I'm not sure I am brave enough to try making them! Linda@budhelandapickle.com

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  7. Shoot! Hit the a instead of the s in my blog address…bushelandapickle.com

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  8. OMG! What a flavorful combination...coconut milk and basil...I cannot stop imagining how tasty this is...yum! Beautiful presentation Sam...
    Hope you are enjoying your week :D

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  9. I love mussels and these two recipes are keepers, Sam. You have the best fuss-free seafood recipes.

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  10. Love mussels! And yes, in the frozen food department one can find ready to go mussels with minimal effort. Thanks.

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  11. Love mussels in white wine so think I will stick to what I do best :-)) Interesting idea though in coconut milk. Keep well Diane

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  12. Sam, While I'm not really into mussels, I will eat them... Both my wife and I like coconut and basil so this may be perfect for us. Thanks and Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

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  13. You reminded me I need to stop by our Asian market. They have live fish and shellfish in aquariums. They will clean them for you. Now which recipe to choose? Both look delicious.

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  14. I'll bet you had fun with the throwdown Sam! While I've used it in rice pudding, I've never cooked anything savory with coconut milk and do think I'd like it:@)

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  15. Oh, Sam! I am so sorry you are in pain! So very sorry and pray you feel better soon.

    I love both, but white wine might edge the other out. Yum!

    xo

    Sheila

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  16. Both mussels look exquisite, Sam, but I think I'd prefer Meakin's white wine version, especially since he adds Pernod! I hope your pain will go away as your PT progresses!

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  17. I love mussels, especially fresh out of the water as we get them in the summer in Maine. Haven't tried them with coconut and basil, but you can bet that's next .

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  18. Being just lukewarm on coconut, I know I would have opted for the white wine version. I like the Chez Meakin moniker. Best of luck with the therapy.

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  19. Sam, We love mussels but I have to confess that just as much about the bread and frites dunked in the yummy broth! I was reading Penny's comment above, we had the same experience with mussels from The Fresh Market, ironic since they were so not fresh. I haven't had any luck finding them anywhere where they haven't been sitting a while. We usually order them out at a spot that does a different daily preparation and they're always good as long as there is dunking material to go with :)

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  20. If you have a Costco nearby you will find good fresh mussels, especially on Fridays. I've never been disappointed. Unfortunately my daughter is allergic so I have to wait until she's away to share them with a friend. I love both recipes but gun to my head would choose the marinieres. Many years ago, I rented a house in Barfleur and had my fill of moules marinieres. What a treat! The photos, as usual, are beautiful, especially the composition of the Thai mussels. Lucky you to have such a wonderful in house photographer and cook!

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  21. Your mussels look delicious, esp. the first recipe. I see them in the store frequently and Bill loves mussels, but I've never tried cooking them. Guess that will have to change after your saying it's easy!

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  22. My husband is the mussel fan in our family and I know if both dishes were available on a menu at a restaurant that he would choose the Moules a la Mariniere.

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  23. I'll take the coconut steamed! They look delicious. And thanks for the clarification of the cultivated and that beard thing. Always wondered what I was missing when the recipe indicated to clean it.

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  24. Sam, we love mussels and cook them all the time. They are so easy to prepare, dinner is on the table in minutes. I can't wait to try your recipe!

    Have a lovely weekend and thank you for the visit, it was nice to "see" you!

    Mary

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  25. I love mussels! Our favorite French restaurant here in Milwaukee serves them your favorite way (which would be mine also) and also with a curry sauce which is delicious. I rarely make them at home because, sadly, my husband is not a fan :(

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  26. The best mussels we ever ate were in Brittany, known for the best. They were cooked in white wine, so you know what I think. But it is always fun to experiment.

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  27. Perhaps I should try both . . . though I've never cooked a mussel myself.

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  28. Anyone who got to taste both was a winner, I'm sure! Let me add my voice to the idea that mussels are easy to prepare at home. I'm had always been reluctant, and then gave it a try at home and it was one of the best meals I'd ever made. My goal is to find the perfect recipes for mussels in a saffron cream sauce.

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  29. I'll take an order of both with a side of pomme frittes. Thanks so much for bringing yet, another wonderful recipe/s to foodie friday. Pinning.

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  30. Sam, your photos are awesome! Love mussels...will choose to make the basil/coconut as I'm not a great fan of tomatoes with my mussels,

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  31. love love love mussels but never have them as often as I want. something about a 2 and 4 year old munching on mussels isn't quite their idea of a good dinner but me and hubs sure do have them when we are out to eat. I also like to grab a few when I make a seafood soup or something. Love the way you cooked yours with those flavors of basil and coconut!

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  32. I'll be honest - I think they both look terrific!

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  33. These both look delicious. It would be fun to prepare both dishes for a taste comparison party with friends. Lots of fresh, local mussels are available here.

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  34. Hi Sam,
    What a beautiful "throwdown" and so difficult to judge which dish will be the winner. I plan on making both and let my husband who loves Mussels be the judge.

    Thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday and hope to see you again real soon!
    Miz Helen

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  35. I am addicted to mussels - love the French recipe. I am intrigued by the coconut - sort of a Caribbean style mussels and on my agenda just for fun - when I am done with Phase 1 of Atkins modified. You are right - they are so easy to prepare!

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  36. Dear Sam, I would very much enjoy this dish. I have not had mussels in a very long time. Blessings dear. Catherine xo

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  37. I would be surprised if I didn't like the Thai better only because that is one of my absolute favorite flavor profiles. I could eat Thai food all week, love all of the ginger, lemongrass, chiles, garlic, and cilantro flavors.

    Glad therapy is going well. That's the toughest part of recovery to me. Hang in there kiddo!

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I enjoy reading each and every comment. If you leave a comment with a question or that requires an answer, please leave an address or way for me to get in touch with you. I appreciate your taking the time to visit my blog and I hope you'll return again soon.
Sam