Mussel Potato Soup

Is it mussels? Is it potato soup?  No, it's both!  What a great idea, glad I thought of it.  Actually, I'm sure I'm not the first person to think of it, but it's pretty ingenious for the paleo world.  Usually mussel dishes at restaurants are served with nicely toasted bread to sop up all the extra broth.  Well, since we don't eat bread, and Ian hates to waste food, I tried to come up with a recipe that was both a great mussel dish and a soup.  That way, after you have finished the mussels, you are left with a delicious soup instead of trash.  That was harsh.  No throw away food here though.  Mussels are also a great source of protein, cook very quickly and are relatively inexpensive in my view, 1 lb for $5.10.  These mussels came from a sustainable farm, Carlsbad Aquafarm, here in CA, but there are many other good sustainable choices out there.  I did splurge a bit on the pancetta, .35 lb was $5.60 from Whole Foods.  I don't normally shop at Whole Foods but there were two accidents on my commute home last Friday night, turning my usual 50 minute car ride into a nightmare.  I decided to stop in at Whole Foods, mosey around the aisles and grab a salad, great way to spend a Friday night.  You could easily substitute bacon here, it would be cheaper and also lend a bit of a smokey flavor that I think would be nice.  I chose pancetta to elevate the dish a bit to something special.  This makes enough for 4 regular sized people as an appetizer, Ian and I managed to eat the whole thing, but he eats for two.

Note: Check out think post on Mark's Daily Apple about the fantastic benefits of shellfish, "A Guide to Shellfish."

Mussel Potato Soup
(Print Recipe)
1 lb Mussels
.35 lb Pancetta, diced
1/2 White onion, diced
1 Sweet potato, cubed
1 can Coconut milk
3/4 cup Clam juice (I used this)
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 stalk Lemongrass, cut into 3 inch pieces
1 tsp Thyme
1/2 tsp Pepper
Salt, if necessary
Cilantro, for garnish

Add diced pancetta to a medium sized soup pot over medium-high heat.  Render out fat and allow to crisp, remove from pan.  Add onion, potato and lemongrass to fat drippings, saute for 5-8 minutes until onions are translucent.  Add garlic, thyme, and pepper saute for 1 more minute.  Add coconut milk and clam juice, simmer for 10-12 minutes until potatoes are just fork tender, check for seasoning, add salt if necessary.  Gently place mussels in the pot and push down into soup, cover and steam for 2-3 minutes.  Check for any closed shells, and discard.  Shells that do not open are dead mussels and should not be eaten.
Pour soup and mussels into serving dish, discarding lemongrass, and top with crispy pancetta and a sprinkling of cilantro.   Dig in!