Barbecue country may not be the first place you think of when a craving for Vietnamese food strikes--but chef Larry McGuire's newest restaurant, Elizabeth Street Café, is taking strides to change that. The restaurant's yellow curry, brimming with PEI mussels and garlicky chicken meatballs, is an apt place to start. Permeated with heady turmeric, shrimp paste and kaffir lime leaves, the dish is as brilliant in color as it is in flavor. Grab a serving spoon and curb those cravings, wherever they may strike.
Yellow Curry With Mussels And Chicken Meatballs
Recipe adapted from Larry McGuire, Elizabeth Street Café, Austin, TX
Yield: 4 servings
1 pound ground dark-meat chicken
1½ tablespoons kosher salt, divided
¼ teaspoon fish sauce
¼ teaspoon granulated sugar
3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 scallion, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon finely chopped lemongrass
¼ teaspoon finely chopped bird's-eye chile or jalapeño chile
Yellow Curry Base
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ small carrot, roughly chopped
One 2-inch piece ginger, peeled (use the edge of a teaspoon to scrape off the skin) and coarsely chopped
¼ bunch scallions, roughly chopped
½ small yellow onion, roughly chopped
½ lemongrass stalk, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons canned yellow curry paste
¼ teaspoon shrimp paste
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups chicken broth
2 fresh makrut (kaffir) lime leaves
2 cups cauliflower florets (from about ½ of a small head of cauliflower)
1 small kohlrabi--peeled, trimmed and sliced into thin, 2-inch long matchsticks
1 pound mussels (preferably Prince Edward Island), cleaned
3 tablespoons Italian flat-leaf parsley, divided
1 small red chile pepper (such as a fresno chile), thinly sliced
1 medium cucumber, thinly sliced into rounds
½ loaf French bread, sliced into ½-inch-thick pieces and toasted
1. Make the meatballs: In a large bowl, add the chicken, ½ tablespoon salt, fish sauce, sugar, garlic, scallion, lemongrass and chile. Use your hands to mix together until just combined. Use a small ice cream scoop to form ½-inch balls (the recipe should yield about 32 meatballs). Place the meatballs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Wet your hands slightly with water, then roll the meatballs into smooth, round balls and return them to the baking sheet. Place the meatballs in the freezer for 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan filled with water to a boil. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of salt and the meatballs to the pot. Poach the meatballs until they float, 3 to 4 minutes, then use a slotted spoon or frying spider to transfer the meatballs to a paper-towel-lined baking sheet and cool completely. Once the meatballs are cooled, refrigerate until ready to use.
3. Make the yellow curry base: In a large saucepan set over medium heat, add the butter. Cook until the butter is melted and browned slightly, about 5 minutes. Add the carrot, ginger, scallions, onion and lemongrass and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft and begin to caramelize, about 8 minutes. Stir in the yellow curry paste and cook, stirring frequently, until the paste begins to brown and stick slightly, 6 to 8 minutes.
4. Add the shrimp paste, turmeric and salt and cook for 1 minute. Pour in the chicken broth and add the lime leaves, then bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 25 minutes. Add the vegetable mixture to a blender. Add a bit of the liquid and purée until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and return the base to the saucepan.
5. To finish, add the poached meatballs to the saucepan and place over medium heat, add the cauliflower and kohlrabi, and cover the pan. Cook until the vegetables are almost tender, about 5 minutes. Add the mussels and cover the pan. Cook until the mussels begin to open, about 5 minutes. Just before serving, add 2 tablespoons of the chopped parsley and stir to combine. Transfer the curry to a serving bowl and top with fresno chile slices and the remaining 1 tablespoon parsley. Serve the curry with the cucumber rounds and the toasted bread slices.