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 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. ;)