So what do you do when your daughter calls up and says she’s bringing home three friends and “can we have dinner at the house?” You say, “yes, of course” and, after switching off the phone, you panic — out of your daughter’s earshot. You panic — gracefully. After the moment of panic passes, you relax. You take a deep breath and you relax. Me? Speedy and I watched Jack Reacher.
Okay, I’m kidding. Not about Jack Reacher. We really did watch it after I got off the phone with Alex. I’m kidding about the panic part. The thing is, it never does any good to cook in a panic. You’re likely to make mistakes, cook a terrible meal, embarrass your kid and risk having your kid’s friends leaving your house and telling all who care to listen that their friend’s mom is the worst cook ever.
I’m so used to impromptu dinner arrangements when the girls want to hang out at home with their friends. Been doing that since they were in high school. I’m used to it. And I enjoy cooking for my daughters’ friends. Truth is, the fact that Alex gave me over three hours advanced notice tonight is a huge improvement. There were times when they were in high school when they’d arrive in the middle of the day with friends and I had to get the cooking done in less than 30 minutes. So, three hours is a long time to prepare a good meal.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, remember — don’t panic. Your kids’ friends are coming to your house to hang out, they’re not expecting fast food service and, if your kids choose their friends well, the friends will be smiling and graceful and appreciative no matter how humble the meal you serve them. This yellow rice with fresh mussels and mixed vegetables is the meal that awaits Alex and her friends.
- 4 to 6 tbsps. of cooking oil
- 4 to 6 cloves of garlic, minced
- a knob of ginger, minced
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- a generous pinch of whole cumin seeds
- 1 kaffir lime leaf, thinly sliced
- 1 carrot, cubed
- about 100 g. of Baguio (French) beans, stringed and cut into one-inch lengths
- 1 large bell pepper, diced
- ½ k. of fresh mussels, rinsed and debearded
- patis (fish sauce), to taste
- black pepper, to taste
- 2 tbsps. of tumeric powder
- 2 to 4 tbsps. of chili sauce
- 4 to 6 c. of rice cooked with the least amount of water possible
- Heat the cooking oil in a wok or other shallow pan. Saute the garlic, ginger, onion, cumin seeds and kaffir lime leaf just until fragrant. Add the carrot cubes, beans and diced bell pepper. Saute for about a minute.
- Add the mussels to the pan, pour in half a cup of water and season with patis and black pepper. Cover the pan tightly and let the mussels cook in the steam for about four minutes. You want the shells to partially open but the mussels should only be half-cooked at this point.
- Turn off the heat and pick out the mussels. Pry open the shells (careful, they are hot) and discard the empty half shells.
- Turn on the heat once again. Add the turmeric powder and chili sauce to the vegetables. Stir. Taste. Add more patis and pepper, if needed.
- Add the rice to the vegetables. Stir until the coloring is even. Stir in the half-cooked mussels. Cover the pan, set the heat to the lowest setting and let everything finish cooking in the hot steam for five to seven minutes.
- Fluff up the rice before serving.