Seafood is undeniably synonymous with the Pacific Northwest, a region overflowing with a treasure chest of the stuff: salmon, trout, shrimp, crab, and oysters, among much more. Living in this part of the world means plenty of meals starring seafood—from fresh oysters just plucked from the sea to prawns swimming in a creamy bisque—but even if you don’t call the west coast home, there are still plenty of ways to replicate that taste of seafood at home.
The Pacific Northwest Seafood Cookbook, $19.56 on Amazon
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Enter “The Pacific Northwest Seafood Cookbook,” a fish-forward cookbook by food writer Naomi Tomky. The Seattle resident uses her breadth of knowledge of the region to dream up the kinds of seafood recipes you’ll want to include in your cooking orbit. Try a recipe for crispy-skin halibut, paired with creamed minty peas and morel mushrooms, or recreate the essence of summer with shrimp rolls—bay shrimp squeezed into soft, buttery bread. The book is also filled with guidance on how to buy and store seafood, how to fillet salmon and remove bones and skin, and is rounded out with a brief history of seafood in the Pacific Northwest.
Shellfish Steamer Bags, $29.99 on Amazon
Ahead, find a recipe for red curry mussels, a Thai-inspired dish that can be devoured year round. A pile of mussels is steamed in a mixture of coconut milk and curry paste for about five minutes, then garnished with ribbons of cilantro and Thai basil. The hot mussels are ready to be snapped apart to reveal plump meat that’s both spicy and tangy and should be shared among friends and family.
Excerpted from The Pacific Northwest Seafood Cookbook. Text copyright 2019 Naomi Tomky. Photographs copyright 2019 Celeste Noche. Reproduced by permission of The Countryman Press. All rights reserved.
Red Curry Mussels Recipe
The Thai curry pastes that can be found at many grocery stores are miracle workers on seafood. When I was a kid, my mom would use them to dress up shrimp and serve over rice. This version uses mussels, but really, this recipe is more forgiving than maternity leggings. Use what you can, use what you have. If you can’t find an ingredient, leave it out, use something else, don’t stress. This is an anti-stress recipe.
Red Curry Mussels
- One 13.5-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
- 1 lemongrass stalk, white part only (about the bottom 4 inches), thinly sliced
- 2 shallots, sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, sliced
- 2 to 4 tablespoons red curry paste (see notes)
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 3 lime leaves (see notes)
- 2 pounds mussels, debearded and scrubbed
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro
- ¼ cup chopped Thai basil leaves
- 1 lime, cut in wedges
- You’ll want to serve this with some sort of starch to soak up the delicious sauce—over rice works well, but a crusty baguette also does wonders.
- Heat ¼ cup of the coconut milk over medium heat in a wide pan. When it begins to shimmer with heat, add the lemongrass, shallots, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the curry paste and a second ¼ cup of coconut milk, stirring again to incorporate, for another 3 to 4 minutes.
- Deglaze by adding the fish sauce and scraping up any stuck-on bits, then add the remaining coconut milk and lime leaves, stirring it all together.
- When it begins to boil, add the mussels and stir gently but completely. Cover and leave for 5 to 8 minutes, depending on the size of your mussels, until all mussels have opened.
- Remove from the heat, stir again, then garnish with cilantro, Thai basil, and lime wedges.
- How much curry paste you need will, of course, depends on the brand. Start with a little, add more if desired. Four tablespoons, at least, of my favorite brand, Mae Ploy, will get you a very spicy broth—use caution. I’ve found that the plastic tubs (like Mae Ploy) work best. Thai Kitchen, in glass jars, and similar brands tend to be a little blander, but you can always adjust by adding more of the paste or supporting ingredients.
- Lime leaves, for many years, were labeled by a name with a pejorative meaning. In recent years, the food industry has woken up a little bit, but hasn’t settled on a standard. Thus the leaves you find may be labeled as Makrut, wild, Thai, or any number of other words. As long as it says lime leaf, that’s what you’re looking for.
Header image courtesy of Celeste Noche.