Jul 19, 2010

How to Host a Recession-Proof Dinner Party

I’m so tired of hearing about how badly the economy has tanked, aren’t you? I miss shopping, and traveling, and throwing parties with my friends… Ok, so your entertaining budget may not be what it once was, but that doesn’t mean you can’t invite your pals over for a seafood feast.

Clockwise from Top Left: Taking a pre-dinner soak, making the sauce, ready to eat, no forks needed, extra bowls for the shells.

Mussels may just be the cheapest way to feed a crowd short of serving them Ramen Noodles. They’re usually $2-3 per pound and you’ll need a half pound per person for a large appetizer portion. If you want to serve them as the main event, figure about a pound per person. Add a few loaves of bread and a bottle of wine and dinner is served. It’s so easy and your friends will be seriously impressed… and if like me, you find the idea of preparing shellfish at home a little intimidating, then you'll even impress yourself with how well these turn out! Just be sure to buy the freshest mussels you can find from a reputable seafood market and you'll be fine. I swear.

Throw a Dinner Party: Thai Red Curry Mussels

What you need:
2 teaspoons peanut oil, or canola oil
2 shallots, sliced thinly into rings (or 2 medium cloves garlic, minced)
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled & cut into matchsticks
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1-2 teaspoons Thai red curry paste
1 14-ounce can “lite” coconut milk
1 cup white wine
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 green or red chili, sliced thinly (optional)
2-3 pounds mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded (see Tip)
1 bunch cilantro, chopped

How you make it:
Rinse mussels and place in a large pot of cool water about 30 minutes before you want to cook them. Inspect them carefully and discard any that have cracked shells or don’t close when you tap them. Farmed mussels don’t usually have beards (rough “hairs” that poke out of the shells), but if you find some that do just yank them off with your fingers or a pair of pliers. You have to de-beard the mussels just before you cook them though since pulling the beard off kills them.

Heat oil in a large high-sided skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add garlic, ginger, lime zest and curry paste; cook until fragrant, stirring to break up the paste, 1 to 3 minutes. Add lime juice, coconut milk, wine, salt, fish sauce and chili (if using). Stir to combine everything and bring to a low boil for 2 minutes.

Strain mussels, add to pot, stir once or twice and cover. Cook over medium heat 6-8 minutes until the mussels open. Stir everything gently to coat with the sauce and top with a handful of chopped cilantro. Serve immediately with lots of bread for dipping.

NOTE: Want to try Belgium-style? Cook the mussels in a garlic, butter & white wine sauce and serve with French fries & beer – so good!

p.s. - Big thanks to Mrs. Weir for taking some pictures before we ate everything!

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