At the Boston restaurant Myers+Chang, you’ll find a lemongrass mussel dish that’s a little different from mussels you might find elsewhere.
As revealed in their new book, "Myers+Chang at Home" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $32), owner Joanne Chang explains the process of "dry-frying" shellfish: Throwing mussels in a really hot, dry pan allows them to pop open and pick up a smoky, roasted-in-the-fire-at-the-beach kind of flavor. "Cooking mussels this way also means their liquid reduces instantly as soon as they open, which concentrates their flavor," she writes. "Mussel broth is always the best part of mussels, anyway."
She recommends making a meal of it with garlic toast or serving it as an appetizer. The trick to cleaning the mussels is to cover them in cold water for about 20 minutes or so; they will spit out any sand that might be inside. Scrub the shells and pull the stringy “beard,” and you’re ready to cook them.
Wok-Roasted Lemongrass Mussels with Garlic Toast
1 stalk lemongrass
6 medium garlic cloves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro stems
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds PEI mussels, cleaned, scrubbed and debearded
1 1/2 cups white wine
4 slices crusty white bread, or 1 small French baguette, split in half
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
2 teaspoons sugar
1 fresh Thai bird chili or jalapeño, sliced
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves (about 1/2 bunch)
Peel and discard the dry, papery outer layers of the lemongrass; trim off the top two-thirds of the stalk, which is also dry and papery, along with the very base, and discard. Coarsely chop the pale, bendable inner core. You should have about 2 tablespoons chopped lemongrass. Mince 3 of the garlic cloves and add to the lemongrass. Add the cilantro stems and finely mince all three ingredients together. Place in a small bowl and stir in the fish sauce, salt and 1/2 teaspoon of the black pepper. It will look like a rough pesto. Set aside. The lemongrass mixture can be made up to a day in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
In a wok or large flat-bottomed saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat for about 30 seconds. Thinly slice 2 of the garlic cloves and add to the oil. Add the lemongrass mixture and cook, stirring, until the garlic starts to brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the mussels and wine. Turn the heat up to high, cover the pot, and cook for 5 minutes.
While the mussels are cooking, toast the bread until golden brown and spread with 1 tablespoon of the butter. Split the remaining garlic clove in half and run the cut side over the buttered sides of the bread. Set aside.
Take a peek inside the pot. When the liquid is boiling and the mussels have opened, add the remaining 1 teaspoon black pepper, the lime juice, sugar and chili. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter with a wooden spoon. Cook over high heat for 2 minutes to incorporate the butter. Fold in the cilantro leaves and discard any unopened mussels, since they are not fit to eat. Divide the mussels between two bowls and pour the broth over the mussels. Serve with the garlic toast. Serves 2.
— From "Myers+Chang at Home: Recipes from the Beloved Boston Eatery" by Joanne Chang and Karen Akunowicz (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $32)