What I had for dinner:

Mussels and Fries

[ Previous ] 8 Jul 1994 23:43:57 -0400 [   Next   ]

Ever since soc.culture.belgium got off the ground a couple of months ago, I've been meaning to make some version of that quintessential Belgian specialty, moules-frites. Of course, I've waited so long that we are now right in the middle of the months without "r", but what with modern refrigeration and all that, I took the chance. At least with bivalves one can tell if they are still good by whether the shells are tightly closed, and open well upon cooking.

I have recently been working on perfecting oven fries because deep frying, besides being obscenely calorie-rich, does not work terribly well for someone who does not use the fryer very often: the oil tends to get oxidized (a major Bad Thing) and picks up smells. I'm almost there; they are not yet quite as crisp as I would like, but they are not bad at all. The potatoes are cut in even strips, washed, dried, and coated with a film of oil (shaking in a plastic bag works very well. Here's a use for all these vegetable-store plastic bags that you've been saving!), excess oil is drained, and the potatoes are placed on a baking sheet in a preheated very hot oven (450-500F). Baking will take 20-30 min, depending on the thickness. The "fries" are ready when they look golden.

Meanwhile, a sauce for the mussels consists of a couple of chopped shallots, 4 oz of tomato sauce (1/2 small can of good commercial sauce is fine, all we want is the tomato in it, really), some rosemary, and 2 tbsp of capers. Let it cook gently in a covered saucepan.

The best mussels for this are the smaller European type, with shells between 1 and 2". They are $1.95 a pound at Citarella, and a pound makes a decent serving with an appetizer and/or dessert. I chose to forgo both and went with 1.5 lb of mussels instead.

Wash the mussels and make sure they are tightly closed. Discard any that look dodgy. Steam them until all are open, about 5 min, for instance in a pot with a pasta liner. Be careful that, as they open, the mussels release their juices, which cause extensive foaming. Watch the pot!

Add 2 tbsp of the mussels liquid to the sauce, and a little Tabasco sauce and lemon juice. This sauce should be on the sour side.

Place the mussels in a deep serving dish, pour the sauce over, and serve with the fries and homemade mayonnaise on the side. Eat with your hands! Scoop the mussels with an empty shell, dip the potatoes in the mayo, and pretend you're in Brussels.

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