Moules-frites, or simply mussels and fries, is one of my all time favorite dishes. It originates from Belgium, but has become a staple in French cuisine. The combination of briny, meaty mussels paired and crisp salty fries is just perfect. Oh, and don’t forget some crusty bread to sop up the succulent cooking liquid, and a beverage to complement all of those savory flavors – a white wine, cold beer, or dry cider will do.
This dish is perfectly balanced, not just in flavor, but also in the way it is prepared and eaten. It is rustic, yet elegant. It is simple to make, as mussels are ready in a matter of minutes, but you have to do a bit of work to reap the rewards of your cooking. I find you tend to eat slower, make more conversation, and linger longer at the table when you have to pick through your warm pot of mussels one by one, ultimately creating a more memorable dining experience.
For this recipe, I bake my potatoes (as I do for my Steak-Frites). You can fry them if you like, but I find this method yields fries that are just as crisp and delicious, not to mention healthier (every little bit counts, right?).
There is just a tiny splash of Pernod, which can be omitted if you don’t have any on hand, or don’t like anise, but I highly recommend using it, as it really brings more depth of flavor to the dish.
Of course, for the mussels, use quality fresh ones. Usually they come de-bearded, but if not, simply pull out the little brown strings at the base of the shell. Throw away any mussels that look cracked or open. Otherwise, simply give them a soak to get rid of any sand or grit, and they’re ready to go.
This meal is perfect for a slightly cool summer evening in the backyard… or for lunch on the French Riviera, if you can swing that.
1 pound yukon gold potatoes, peeled
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon pepper, divided
1 pounds mussels, de-bearded
1 tablespoon butter
2 shallots, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1 teaspoon Pernod
Lemon, to serve
Parsley, to serve
Preheat oven to 450°F.
Soak potatoes in cold water for 10 minutes. Drain. In a large saucepan, cover potatoes with fresh cold water. Bring to a boil and cook 10 minutes. Drain. Once cool, cut potatoes into 1/4-inch matchsticks; rinse in cold water and dry completely. On a baking sheet, toss fries with 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Roast, stirring occasionally until just crisp, about 30 minutes.
Soak mussels in cold water for 10 minutes. Drain.
In a large heavy stockpot over high heat, melt butter into 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add shallot, onion, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; sauté until soft, stirring frequently, 7-10 minutes. To pot, add mussels, wine and Pernod. Cover and cook until all mussels open up, shaking pot frequently, 5-7 minutes. If any mussels do not open, discard them.
Squeeze fresh lemon juice over mussels, sprinkle with parsley, and serve immediately with fries, crusty bread, and white wine or cold beer.