Thai Green Curry Coconut Mussels [Cooking Demo]

Blogging Community, Food Adventures, Los Angeles, Main Dishes, Recipes

So yesterday I was invited to do a cooking demonstration on the main stage at the 626 Night Market and I am excited to announce that it was a great success! I was nervous as this was my first demo experience (I soon learned that it was a first for 626 Night Market as well!), and I would be following a cooking-on-camera veteran Marina Chung of The Taste. I knew I would only have a 30-minute time slot, but I was feeling ambitious and really wanted to show off a dish that could be done from start to finish. I racked my brain for ideas when it hit me — steamed mussels.

Thai Green Curry Coconut Steamed Mussels

Thai Green Curry Coconut Steamed Mussels

We have done moules marinieres at home many times, even making a 5-pound batch for a party with our dear friends Brian and Patricia, both of whom play major roles on the 626 Night Market planning team and were influential in getting me this gig. This time, though, I wanted to do a special twist with a Thai green curry based broth; the first time I ate a similar dish, it was a red curry broth at Waterloo & City and the flavor combination really stuck with me. It also perfectly fit our blog’s mission of finding easy ways to replicate gourmet food at home. I knew I would be able to execute the dish in the amount of time given and most importantly, I was confident that it looked and tasted good enough that my audience would (hopefully) be inspired to make it at home too!

They even made this cool graphic for marketing my demo segment!

They even made this cool graphic for marketing my demo segment!

I am so happy to share the recipe with our readers. Unfortunately I do not have step-by-step photos, but somewhere out there exists film footage of my demo. When I have access to it, I’ll update this post with a link so you can watch the clip at home and follow along. Scroll down to read the recipe or click here to download the PDF file that was handed out at the event. I also thought I’d share what I learned about doing cooking demonstrations – they are super fun but I feel they also require a good amount of planning and organization in order to be done well.

The Set-up (I practiced once at home first)

The Set-up (I practiced once at home first)

ingredients:

2 pounds live mussels, cleaned and carefully stored

2 stalks fresh lemongrass

1-inch piece of galangal, sliced (optional)

2-3 kaffir lime leaves

1.5 tablespoons thai green curry paste

14 fluid ounces coconut milk OR 7 fluid ounces coconut cream plus 1/2 cup of water or chicken broth

1 tablespoon fish sauce

3 tablespoons thai basil, cut into ribbons (chiffonade)

1 fresno chili, sliced OR 1 thai chili, crushed (optional)

loaf of crusty bread for serving (french baguette works well)

 

directions:

clean the mussels, scrubbing off debris and removing the beards. discard any that are chipped, cracked, or remain open despite gentle tapping (it’s called a percussion test!).

dice only the lower, golden-colored portion of the lemongrass stalk. discard the green stems or save for later use (they’re great for soups!).

in a hot skillet, briefly sauté the lemongrass, galangal, and curry paste until aromatic. add the coconut milk (or coconut cream + water) and kaffir lime leaves and bring to a simmer.

turn the heat to high and add the mussels, double-checking to discard any that may be unsafe to consume. cover with a tight-fitting lid and let the mussels steam. within five to seven minutes, all of the mussels should have opened.

with a slotted spoon, transfer the mussels to a serving bowl.

add two tablespoons of thai basil to the broth along with the chili, if using. taste and adjust for saltiness by adding fish sauce (you may not need the full tablespoon, depending on the brininess of the mussels). if the broth is too watery, reduce the liquid by simmering for a few more minutes.

ladle over the mussels and sprinkle with the remaining thai basil for garnish. serve with a loaf of crusty bread for soaking up the broth.

bon appetit!

Voila!

Voila!

I learned so much about doing a cooking demo, both in researching before the event and from the feedback I received after the event. Here are a few tips that I hope will come in handy if you ever have the opportunity to show off your cooking prowess and love for food:

1. Research your ingredients: I looked up every single item on my ingredients list to see if there were any fun facts I could provide the audience. I wanted to make sure I knew what I was talking about and to anticipate potential questions, so I researched topics like possible recipe substitutions (galangal vs. ginger, coconut milk vs. coconut cream), health benefits of any ingredients, proper handling and techniques, the best ways to describe certain methods (like de-bearding mussels). I was told later that the audience found it helpful that I took the time to describe each item and make “exotic” ingredients seem less daunting.

2. Plan your time: I did a run-through of preparing the recipe from start to finish in my own home first, especially since I would be using a portable burner and wanted to ensure the equipment would cooperate. This also gave me the opportunity to adjust my game plan so that I would fill in any “blank” time between waiting for things to heat or cook. For example, the instructions above mention cleaning the mussels first before starting the broth, but since I knew I would have to wait for the cream to come to a simmer, I started that first and used the wait time to talk about the mussels. I also had to make sure I added in some time for mishaps or answering questions and, in my case, subtract some time in case I speak too quickly (as often happens when I give presentations… it’s the nerves!).

3. Speak with personality: Speaking of speaking, before my demo I spent a lot of time on YouTube watching videos of live cooking demos. I ran the gamut from my favorite cooking personalities (Martin Yan still has GREAT showmanship long after his Yan Can Cook days!) to small-town county fairs, and I tried to glean some do’s and don’ts based on my preferences. The main thing I noticed is that cooking and talking simultaneously is not as easy as it looks! Also, I enjoyed most when the presenter sounded like they were talking to a crowd of peers. Luckily for me, I didn’t have to imagine the friends (but more on that below).

4. Make checklists: I was working with the bare minimum for my demo — tables, a 6-outlet surge protector with extension cord, and a headset/microphone. That’s it. I had to check and double-check my lists as I was packing my non-perishables: cutting board, towels, water, portable burner, skillet & lid, knives, spoons, prep bowls, decorative props… then I had to make sure my list for last-minute ingredients was up to snuff as well! I’m the type to get that odd feeling that I forgot to pack something so lists galore work best for me.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help: When the guys in the kitchen spot me (or anyone really) carrying something too heavy or bulky to be comfortable, they always say “Don’t be a hero!” I had to ask for some help getting my supplies to and from the stage, and that is A-OK. Also, I did not end up doing this because of the nature of the venue and stage setup, but you can invite audience members to come up and assist with the prep! It helps get them more engaged in the process, especially if you are able to provide samples at the end.

Family Photo

Family Photo

And last but certainly not least, I wanted to say thank you to 626 Night Market and to all of my friends and family who came out to support me in doing my first cooking demo! I wish I had been able to take a photo from where I was standing up on stage, but when I looked down to the audience, I saw so many familiar faces sitting in the crowd and it made my heart melt. I already knew some people would be there; my best friend Calvin and his girlfriend Pollyanna were visiting from out of town and we had caravaned to the event together, our friends Lilia and Wilson had just met up with us at Popping Fish Balls, and Brian even sneaked away from his event duties to watch. Of course, my dear Martin was grinning from ear to ear to finally see the results after enduring my recipe tweaking, the hot hot heat, the traffic, and my constant asking of “what if this happens?” “what if I forget something?” “what if I curse in front of all those people?”. I am so thankful for his endless support, acting as my guinea pig, offering suggestions, carrying my equipment, patiently waiting as I got checked in and set up with the sound people, and just quelling my anxiety in general. AND as you can see in the photo above, my parents came out to the event as well! I was so excited since many of the ingredients were grown in their own backyard, and it meant so much for them to see me in my natural element. And then I saw even more friends had come out to surprise me — Grace and Andrew, Curtis, Edmund, Vicky and Will… before I knew it, I had my very own entourage there to cheer me on, laugh at my lame jokes, ask questions during Q&A when there was awkward silence (“Why IS a dead mussel a bad mussel?”), and sample my dish at the end. I felt so loved.

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.

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our-growing-edge-badgeThis post is part of the monthly link up party Our Growing Edge. This event aims to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things, and you can bet that a first-time cooking demo is the perfect entry! Though I am not new to cooking mussels, it was my first time cooking in front of a large audience. Large being defined as more people than would fit in my living room while I cook in the comfort of my own kitchen. ;)

This month is hosted by Lindsey at Sneaks and Sweets.

Cheers!

Mon Ami Gabi – Paris, Las Vegas NV

Food Adventures, Las Vegas

While wandering the Strip, one can’t help but notice the towering Tour Eiffel, a 1:2 scale replica of the iconic Parisian monument. And ever-bustling with throngs of diners, there’s that one restaurant situated right in the front of the hotel, with an excellent view of the fountain show at the Bellagio across the street. That one restaurant, one we’ve walked past and thought “We should go there someday” many a time, is Mon Ami Gabi. Self-described simply as a classic French bistro, Mon Ami Gabi turned out to be an excellent brunch spot that’s totally worth the hype (though perhaps, not the consistently long wait for patio seating).

What's a classic French bistro without a fresh baked baguette?

What’s a classic French bistro without a fresh baked baguette?

We were open to seating options so we were seated right away. (I overheard that a patio table would be at least a 30 minute wait, and it was not a particularly busy day in Vegas!) We lucked into a table in the enclosed sunroom; with the chilly weather outside that day, I think we got a great spot! Be warned – the main indoor dining room did seem a bit dark for daytime dining, though I’m sure it would be romantic for dinner or supper.

Chicken Liver Mousse Pate

Chicken Liver Mousse Pate

We wanted to try so many of the tempting dishes on the menu but restrained ourselves to a few selections to share. First, the chicken liver mousse. We Californians miss our foie, so we were excited to indulge in its rich decadence. The burgundy red wine mustard added a great acidic punch to cut through the fat, though the buttery brioche would have none of that! The pate was firm yet spread easily over the toast… La belle vie!

Closeup on the Toast and Pickles

Closeup on the Toast and Pickles

We love charcuterie and found this to be a wonderful way to start our morning!

Oysters du Jour

Oysters du Jour

A well-timed respite from the fattiness of our first starter, a half-dozen of the day’s shucked oysters arrived just as we popped the last bites of brioche into our mouths. I forgot to ask where the oysters were from, but they were a great balance of sweet and briny… not particularly special but certainly fresh and enjoyable.

Mussels Mariniere

Mussels Mariniere

Martin and I have been on a mussel kick lately. After exploring the vast selection at Meet in Paris and making our own marinere style at home, we still could not turn down the opportunity for more. These mussels were quite sizable and, though the menu description listed white wine and herbs, were drenched in a good amount of butter. But if you ask me, it’s not French without butter!

Frites

Frites

We shared the full order, adding frites to make it our favorite moules frites. Their signature hand-cut fries were thin and wide, a shape that yielded an awesomely unique texture. The middle was almost chewy, and the edges were golden and crispy. I really enjoyed them! (I can only imagine how delicious they would be as part of the house specialty steak frites.)

Seafood, butter, wine... it's the good life.

Seafood, butter, wine… it’s the good life.

So this may not necessarily be hangover food quite like Earl of Sandwich, but if you’re looking for a brunch hot spot with satisfying food, an excellent view, and a taste of the leisurely French lifestyle, come sample the offerings of Chef Terry Lynch at Mon Ami Gabi. The menu looked impressive and we’ve only just begun to scratch the surface (escargots, duck confit, and tartines also caught my eye). Á votre santé!

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Check out Mon Ami Gabi: monamigabi.com

Paris Resort & Casino
3655 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109

See their Yelp reviews here!

Moules Marinieres

Appetizers and Starters, Main Dishes, Recipes

Martin and I love replicating our favorite restaurant dishes in our own kitchen. Last week, we finally attempted a dish that is one of my all-time favorite to eat yet we had never realized just how easy it would be to make at home — moules frites. Inspired by our brunch at Meet in Paris, we wanted our first batch to keep it simple with garlic, shallots, butter, thyme, and white wine. We managed to find Prince Edward Island (PEI) mussels at our local supermarket chain, though the size of the flesh was nowhere near as gigantic as the ones we had at Meet. This classic mussel preparation is known as mariniere, French for “mariner’s style” but defined in the culinary world as a dish that is prepared by cooking in white wine.

Moules Marinieres

Moules Marinieres

Storing the Mussels: Odds are, the guy behind your grocery store’s seafood counter will toss the mussels into a plastic bag, tie it up, and wrap the whole thing in butcher paper. As soon as you get home, be sure to properly store the mussels. Most importantly, either take them out of the plastic bag or poke holes in it so that they do not suffocate. We transferred ours onto a metal tray, covered them with a damp paper towel, and kept them in the refrigerator until dinnertime. Here’s where it got a little tricky (to me anyway): BEFORE COOKING — the mussels should be tightly closed. Any open ones should close if you tap or otherwise gently disturb it. If the shells are agape and it does nothing, then it is dead and should be discarded. AFTER COOKING — all of the mussels should pop wide open. Any that remain shut are dead and should be discarded. Dead mussels are no bueno.

Ingredients:

Ingredients:

2 lbs mussels (PEI ones are great)

1 shallot, finely diced

4-6 cloves of garlic, minced

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Pinch of salt

A few sprigs of fresh thyme (or a small handful chopped fresh parsley), optional

2 cups dry white wine (any drinkable but well-priced white wine will do; we found a 2012 Beringer Chardonnay for $3/bottle — do NOT use “cooking wine”)

Crusty bread or baguette, warm or toasted if desired

Cleaned Mussels

Cleaned Mussels

First, clean the mussels under cold running tap water. Our mussels were pretty clean, but if needed, you’ll need to remove the beards from between the shells. Set aside.

Sauteing the Garlic and Shallots

Sauteing the Garlic and Shallots

In a large skillet, melt the butter. Saute the shallot and garlic until softened and translucent, about 1-2 minutes. Season with a sprinkling of salt.

Adding the Wine and Mussels

Adding the Wine and Mussels

Add the herbs, if using, and pour in the wine. Turn the heat up to high and add the mussels, arranging them in a single layer if possible.

Cover and Let Simmer

Cover and Let Simmer

Cover and let simmer for about 5 minutes. You’ll notice that they will gradually pop open. Start toasting off crostini-style slices of bread, if desired.

Almost Ready

Almost Ready

Stir the mussels and continue to boil, covered, for another minute or two. Remove the cover and serve immediately.

Beautiful Mussels!

Beautiful Mussels!

Yields 2 servings (the typical serving is about 1 pound of mussels per person).

Serving Suggestion: alongside wine and crusty bread

Serving Suggestion: alongside wine and crusty bread

Serving suggestion: in a large bowl alongside crusty bread and French fries (to complete this dish as moules frites). Provide a spoon, if desired, but I think the best “spoon” is the discarded shell of one of your eaten mussels. Savor the flavorful broth.

Pair with a glass of the same white wine used for cooking or a better Chardonnay if preferred. Bon appetit!

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our-growing-edge-badgeThis post is part of the monthly link up party Our Growing Edge. This event aims to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things. I love to eat moules marinieres, but this was our very first time making it at home and boy, is it easy! I never would have imagined that we could recreate a gourmet dish like steamed mussels; light some candles and whip up a batch of these for your next date night at home for a boost of fanciness and romance.

This month is hosted by Leah at Sharing the Food We Love.

Cheers!

Meet in Paris – Culver City, CA

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

‘Twas the day after Thanksgiving and the weather was quite dreary. Raindrops fell from the sky, and the streets of LA were empty and eerie. We had intended to go out for a hearty Southern brunch, but the long lines and a fateful sign put us in the mood for lunch. “Moules frites, foie gras, escargots” was emblazoned over a doorway; we took our names off the waitlist in favor of something much more gourmet. Meet in Paris is a bistro with decor comforting yet chic. The service was friendly and the mussel options plentiful – c’est magnifique!

Moules Marinieres at Meet in Paris

Moules Marinieres at Meet in Paris

Perhaps all of my blog entries should rhyme. The intro was a bit of an homage to last week’s episode of How I Met Your Mother which was narrated entirely in rhyming couplets. But I digress. I had been wanting to try Meet in Paris for a very long time, but we did not realize where it was located until we strolled from our car to S&W Country Diner. A quick Yelp search reminded me that this bistro was the one with literally one dozen preparations of moules frites, a Belgian (or French, depending on who you ask) dish of steamed mussels served with fries. Moules frites is one of my all-time favorite pub dishes as it pairs excellently with beer, but having it for brunch was a special treat. But first…

Quaint and chic decor

Quaint and chic decor

The exposed brick and chalkboard menu made the bistro feel trendy yet casual. I loved the checked tablecloths and white flour sack towels for napkins. The ambiance really came together for me when La Vie En Rose played in the background. Martin and I love the French romantic-comedy Jeux d’enfants (Love Me If You Dare), so when that song played, an otherwise ordinary brunch transformed into a very cute date.

illy cappuccino

illy cappuccino

Having spotted that they serve illy coffee here, I could not resist ordering a cappuccino. The coffee was the perfect temperature underneath a thick cloud of foam… the whole experience was made even better by a special little treat — a small chocolate macaron resting delicately on the saucer. It was dense and almost brownie-like in flavor and texture, a great foil to the coffee’s intensity.

French onion soup

French onion soup

Rainy weather almost always means soup, so we decided to share a bowl of the French onion soup, served appropriately in the lion head’s bowl. The broth was rich and not overly salted, and the layer of bread just under the cheese soaked in the soup nicely.

So fun to eat!

So fun to eat!

And of course, the generous layer of melted gruyere made appealingly long strings as we dug in.

Croque Madame

Croque Madame

Martin was in the mood for breakfast so he selected his (and apparently one of the servers’) personal favorite — the croque madame. As our server took his order, she nodded with a knowing smile. The croque madame is actually never mentioned on the menu; there is only the croque monsieur with an option to add a sunny side up egg for a nominal fee. Referring to it by its proper name almost felt like passing a secret test of sorts. It arrived with a mountain of shoestring frites and a gravy boat of bechamel. The bread was buttery and tasted even better enveloped by the oozy egg yolk and garlicky (?) bechamel. Super filling!

Moules Marinieres

Moules Marinieres

I was overwhelmed by the many options of moules frites with bases ranging from Thai lemongrass curry to Spanish chorizo broth to lobster bisque. Other varieties included smoked salmon (the Alaska), tequila (the Baja), and crab (the namesake Meet in Paris). But I am a firm believer in the beauty of simplicity, and so I opted for the mariniere — garlic, shallots, chablis, and herbed croutons. I’ve had PEI (Prince Edward Island) mussels in the past, but the ones here were HUGE.

PEI mussel in its shell

PEI mussel in its shell

Seriously monstrous. And they were incredibly tender and juicy. The broth that rendered from the seafood (and butter) was absolutely decadent.

PEI mussel compared to the spoon

PEI mussel compared to the spoon

I had to take a picture or two just to demonstrate how big and meaty these mussels were. This order is the small and it was the Goldilocks portion for my lunch (just right).

Can't have moules frites without the frites!

Can’t have moules frites without the frites!

And the frites… super skinny shoestring fries, these were crispy and salted and reminiscent of Father’s Office frites. Though our server provided a basket of French baguette to sop up the mussel broth, I really enjoyed dipping the fries. By the way, they do give you the option to order a salad instead, but I say – you just can’t have moules frites without the frites.

I noticed many other delicious French offerings on their menu, including steak au poivre (pepper steak) and escargots à l’ail (sauteed in parsley butter), that I’d love to try soon. Like love at first sight, I think we were destined to have our brunch date here and you can bet I’ll be adding this to our list of go-to dinner outings. The perfect spot to rendezvous for your next date night!

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Check out Meet in Paris: meetrestaurantla.com

9727 Culver Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232

See their Yelp reviews here!

On the Waterfront Cafe – Venice, CA

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

Summer sun, something’s begun, but oh — oh, those summer nights… Oh, Grease. Though the summer beach scenes were actually filmed in Malibu, I can’t help but think of this song while strolling through the world-famous boardwalk at Venice Beach. We have lived in West LA since moving here for college, but only recently did we discover On the Waterfront Cafe, a restaurant and biergarten that serves Bavarian beers on tap and features a menu of köstlich (delicious) Swiss/German dishes. The food and brews are great, as is the view — On the Waterfront Cafe is situated right on the boardwalk, just 10 feet from artists and knick-knack vendors and a stone’s throw away from the sandy beach.

Must Have: Giant Pretzel

Must Have: Giant Bavarian Pretzel

Of course when at a biergarten, one must try the beer. I’m not a big beer drinker aside from sweet lambics and the occasional hefeweizen, but I had done my research of their offerings (many of which are from Erdinger) and knew I wanted to try the Urweisse. Note: they recently switched from draft to bottled for this particular variety.

Erdinger Urweisse

Erdinger Urweisse

The Urweisse, a Weißbier with notes of cloves, banana, and citrus, was a smooth beer that paired well with the noms we had ordered for our beach-side lunch, especially the pretzel. It arrived with the Erdinger branded glass and poured a stunning hazy gold color. A squeeze of lemon and I was a happy camper. Prost!

Giant Bavarian Pretzel

Close-up of the Giant Bavarian Pretzel

According to the menu, the pretzel served here does indeed hail from Bavaria, although the details were not specific. The recipe? The dough itself? In any case, they are baked to order and took us aback when we saw it — it was the size of a dinner plate! One is definitely plenty for two people to share. When you order, be sure to request light salt (or none at all, if you have sodium restrictions). Fluffy, hot, and slightly chewy, the pretzel tasted fantastic with the sweet & spicy mustard.

Steamed Mussels

Steamed Mussels

I’m a huge fan of moules frites, so when I spotted the Steamed Mussels served with garlic bread, I had to have it. There were so many mussels, all succulent and tender, stewed in white wine, garlic, onion, and lemon. A classic combination and excellent with the Urweisse. I slurped away with glee, sparing a few for Martin to try.

Pork Bratwurst with Rosti

Pork Bratwurst with Rosti

Martin decided to pair his Erdinger Weizenbier with the Swiss Bratwurst, pork (or veal) bratwurst served with onion sauce & rösti, basically crispy pan-fried Swiss hash browns. He really liked the onion sauce, dipping each bite of sausage and potato into it and even scooping up every last bite of caramelized onion. The bratwurst was juicy on the inside with a smoky charred flavor on the outside.

Party Pitcher

Party Pitcher

On a subsequent visit, we took some friends here for a Sunday morning brunch. Still, it’s never too early for beer, so we shared a pitcher. If you have more in your party, the bartender lines the whole pitcher rim with lemon wedges. Keep in mind that for brunch they only serve the breakfast menu but will make pretzels upon request.

Beer with a View

Beer with a View

Palm trees swaying, ocean breeze wafting, it’s definitely worth sitting outside on the patio. In the summertime, they set out benches at an open biergarten area that’s always crowded with locals and tourists and the occasional cluster of belligerent dudes. The patio is a great place to people-watch (and dog-watch)!

Eggs Scandia

Eggs Scandia

Four people in our party (myself and Martin included) were planning to get the Eggs Benedict when I piped up and inquired what the Eggs Scandia is (the menu has no description). The next words that came out of our server’s mouth sealed the deal for all four of us — two poached eggs over smoked salmon on a butter croissant topped with hollandaise and dill, served with breakfast potatoes.

What lies beneath.. the top half of the croissant.

What lies beneath.. the top half of the croissant.

The croissant was buttery and flaky. I love Eggs Benedict but usually my favorites are the ones that are served on croissants… as if the silky egg yolks weren’t already bad enough for my cholesterol levels. My absolute favorite are crab cake benedicts, but those are harder to find. The smoked salmon added a nice saltiness to cut the creaminess of the hollandaise, and dill and salmon is a classic flavor combination.

Beautifully Poached Egg

Beautifully Poached Egg

The best part of eating Eggs Benedict (or in this case, Eggs Scandia) is cutting into a perfectly poached egg and watching the runny yolk ooze out. Picture perfect. The potatoes were pretty good too, crispy and full of flavor – I detected a sweet smokiness… paprika perhaps? Extra delicious with a splash of hot sauce.

If you’re looking for brunch, lunch, or just a beer and pretzel in Venice Beach, be sure to stop by On the Waterfront Cafe. After your meal, you can walk off the carb-filled pretzel and check out the Boardwalk. Sounds like a win-win situation to me!

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Check out On the Waterfront Cafe: waterfrontcafe.com

205 Ocean Front Walk
Venice, CA 90291

See their Yelp reviews here!