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Recipe: ‘Dry-frying’ seafood gives dish smoky flavor

This recipe for dry-fried (or wok-roasted) mussels comes from the Boston restaurant Myers+Chang, which published a cookbook last year. In “Myers+Chang at Home,” you’ll find a lemon grass mussel dish that’s a little different from mussels you might find elsewhere.

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.”

Unlike many mussels recipes, which focus on garlic and white wine, this one adds extra layers of flavor with lemon grass, cilantro and fish sauce.

Chang recommends making a meal of these babies by serving them with garlic toast or as an appetizer. Don’t forget the trick for cleaning mussels: 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 LEMON GRASS MUSSELS WITH GARLIC TOAST

Adapted from “Myers+Chang at Home: Recipes from the Beloved Boston Eatery” by Joanne Chang and Karen Akunowicz (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $32)

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, divided
  • 2 pounds mussels, cleaned, scrubbed, debearded
  • 1-1/2 cups white wine
  • 4 slices crusty white bread, or 1 small French baguette, split in half
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 fresh Thai bird chili or jalapeno, sliced
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves (about 1/2 bunch)
  • >> Lemon grass seasoning:
  • 1 stalk lemon grass
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro stems
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

>> To make lemon grass seasoning: Peel and discard dry, papery outer layers of lemon grass; trim off top two-thirds of stalk, which is also dry, along with the very base, and discard. Coarsely chop the pale, bendable inner core. You should have about 2 tablespoons. Add garlic and cilantro stems; finely mince all 3 ingredients together. Place in small bowl and stir in fish sauce, salt and pepper. It will look like a rough pesto. Mixture can be made up to a day in advance, refrigerated in an airtight container.

In a wok or large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium about 30 seconds. Thinly slice 2 garlic cloves and add to oil. Add lemon grass seasoning and cook, stirring, until garlic starts to brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Add mussels and wine. Turn heat to high, cover pot and cook 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, toast bread until golden brown and spread with 1 tablespoon butter. Split remaining garlic clove in half and run cut side over buttered sides of bread. Set aside.

Take a peek inside pot. When liquid is boiling and mussels have opened, add pepper, lime juice, sugar and chili. Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Cook over high heat 2 minutes to incorporate butter. Fold in cilantro leaves and discard any unopened mussels. Divide mussels between 2 bowls and pour broth over. Serve with garlic toast. Serves 2.

Nutritional information unavailable.

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