There is nothing quite like sitting down to a meal of freshly steamed mussels.
I particularly love sharing mussels with family or friends out of one large, communal bowl, each of us digging in and helping ourselves.
And, of course, warm bread is always a must at the table for sopping up the delicious juices.
This recipe takes the experience of eating mussels to an entirely new level.
Dried red chilies are cooked slowly with onion, sweet red bell pepper, and coconut milk.
This mixture is then pureed to make a deep red, velvety sauce for the mussels.
Though it takes a bit of extra time to prepare the sauce, once you bring the mussels to the table and start eating, you will forget all about the additional labor.
Falling somewhere between Southeast Asian, Indian, Mexican, and South American cuisines, the flavors in this dish are certainly hard to beat!
Coconut-Red Chili Mussels
Warm, Crusty Bread
Leafy Green Salad with Jicama, Avocado, Orange Slices, and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
6 dried ancho chilies
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
a 14 ounce can of good-quality chopped tomatoes
a 14 ounce can of coconut milk
salt and pepper
2 pounds of mussels, scrubbed and debearded
Pull the stem out from each chili and scrape out the seeds.
Put the chilies in a bowl and add boiling water to cover.
Let the chilies sit for about 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, drain the chilies (reserving the soaking liquid) and put in a blender with about 1/2 cup of the soaking liquid.
Pulse several times to blend.
Continue pulsing while adding remaining soaking liquid in small amounts until you reach a consistency similar to heavy cream.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are tender but not browned (about 5 minutes).
Stir in the red chili puree and cook until the puree is slightly thickened (about 5 minutes more).
Stir in the tomatoes and coconut milk.
Simmer over low heat, covered, for about 1 hour.
Puree the coconut-red chili mixture in batches in a blender or food processor.
Strain the blended mixture through a sieve into a large saucepan (you can skip this step if you like a more textured sauce).
Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.
Bring the sauce to a gentle boil and then add the mussels.
Cover the pan and cook, gently shaking the pan several times, until the mussels open (3 to 5 minutes).
Discard any mussels that don't open.
Serve at once, either in individual bowls or in one large, communal bowl, with warm bread on the side for dipping into the sauce.
Makes 2 to 4 servings