Friday, October 22, 2010

Chayote and Bean Thread Vermicelli with Mussel Coconut "Bisque" Sauce

A while, while, while back, we had a party. Besides numerous other dishes (of course), we also cooked off 8 pounds of mussels à la Congolaise.

I don't exactly know how these flavors are Congolese. We had seen this descriptor on a local restaurant's menu for a dish cooked with tomatoes, coconut milk/cream, "smoky chili" and citrus.

Congolese? Really?

Congolese or not, the flavors work.

So, I sautéed some onions and garlic along with tomato paste until the tomato paste was nicely cooked.

I may or may not have added a little bit of smoked paprika as well.

Then, I poured in some white wine and after a little bit, coconut milk.

The 8 pounds of mussels jumped into the creamy pool.

When they were cooked, I finished the whole thing with just a little squeeze of lime juice, and a generous amount of cilantro.

Why am I going on and on about mussels when this dish doesn't seem to have a mussel in sight?

After the guests had left, I noticed the serving bowl was devoid of mussels, but filled with the "Congolaise" sauce. As you may have already imagined, cooking 8 pounds of mussels will yield you quite a lot of exquisite mussel liqueur.

I couldn't waste that!

This was pure shellfish-y gold. It was so rich and flavorful that I had to christen it a "bisque".

What to do? What to do?

Wanting to do something different with some chayote on our counter besides our usual, I got to thinking and set to work.

I brought the mussel-infused coconut-tomato "bisque" to a boil then a simmer, reducing it somewhat, then dumped in my peeled chayote batons.

It seemed to me, though, that I still was not taking full advantage of the broth-y goodness in the pot.

Noodles! That's what this needs. Taking the path of least resistance, I opted for bean thread vermicelli. No pre-cooking required. I just placed them in the pot until they were cooked. A few minutes, tops.

With the bean thread vermicelli, this dish seemed to have taken a decidedly Asian turn.

So, why not use up the rest of the culantro, aka saw-tooth herb, aka ngo gai, aka Mexican cilantro, that I still had leftover from making Pho Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup)?

For a dish of dubious origins and muddled pedigree, this was absolutely mind-blowing!

The "bisque" was so rich and satisfying -- I do not know how that amount of liquid could have packed that much wallop of mussel-tomato-coconut flavor.

I love chayote and having it in this new, unusual way was a delight. The bean thread noodles absorbed all that bisque-y goodness and the culantro gave the dish a bright, verdant flavor.

The moral of the story: next time you have mussel liqueur from 8 pounds of mussels, you know what to do. ;)

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  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Such a great idea! Love that you found a magnificent use for leftovers.

  3. What a great use of something most people would just throw out!

  4. fun! I do that too, since I consider wasting food to be a sin! love the inspiration you had, the noodles and the cilantro, my kind of flavors! Bravo! Now I have to discover chayote.

  5. Oh my gosh what a glorious idea! Great way to not let all that fabulous mussel flavor go to waste!

  6. Marisa:
    I may even say that the broth was tastier than the actual mussels themselves! I had to use them somehow! ;)

    They're also called mirlitons. They're a type of summer squash.


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