Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Moules Frites (Mussels with French Fries)

The first of a two parter on rather quick and easy seafood dishes:

Moules frites, or mussels with french fries for those who either don't speak French or think its too fancy sounding, is a rather simple dish of mussels in a broth of various concoction with a nice accompaniment of freshly made french fries. The broth has nearly endless possibilities as far as the ingredients go, but the number of ingredients is generally kept to as few as possible. Some form of alcohol (generally white wine) and some aromatics form the base flavor, which you generally want to keep somewhat light so you don't overwhelm the mussels (although for those of you who aren't seafood fans, that may be the whole point). Having said that, I decided to go a bit daring and work up a spicy/lemony curry flavor with some basil, hoping it wouldn't be too strong. I've been growing some lemon balm with the idea of using it in a home made soda at some point, but as I was clipping some leaves off one of my basil plants I thought what the heck and used the lemon balm in place of lemon juice. The result was actually much better than I was expecting, and I just wish I had some bread to mop up some of the broth (the french fries aren't great at that).

Curried Mussels:
2 lb. mussels, cleaned
1 can coconut milk
1 cup white wine (or belgian white beer)
1 tbsp. curry paste (or see below)
handful of basil and lemon balm leaves
  1. Put a large pot over medium high heat and add the curry paste and wine/beer. Mix and bring so a low boil (it shouldn't take longer than 5 minutes).
  2. Let the curry/alcohol mix reduce a little and then add the coconut milk. Bring to a full boil and then add the mussels.
  3. Coat all of the mussels well with the broth and cover for ~5 minutes to get them steamed open. Add the basil and lemon balm leaves and turn the mussels in the broth for another 2-3 minutes.
  4. Transfer the mussels to a bowl and ladle some of the broth over top. Serve with french fries, and preferably a small bowl of broth with some bread for dipping.

French fries:
2 large russet potatoes
big pot of oil
salt for seasoning
  1. Begin heating the oil to 325F. Wash and peel the potatoes and then cut them into ~1/4 inch thick strips. Put the strips into a bowl of water and let sit for 15 minutes. Drain off the starchy water and pat the strips dry.
  2. When the oil is at 325, add small batches of the strips to the pot and cook for about 5 minutes. They should come out pale yellow and become limp when they cool. Repeat until all the strips are done and cool them all to room temperature.
  3. The second frying makes them crispy and delicious, so bump the temperature of the oil to 375F. Again, work in small batches, frying to golden brown. Transfer to a bowl lined with paper towels, sprinkle with salt, and toss. Remove these to a paper towel lines tray and finish off the rest of the batch.

My home made curry paste, curry powder and sriracha.

Basil on the left, lemon balm on the right.

The mussels before being eaten...

The accompanying fries.

Now, if I wanted to do this traditionally, I'd have made some sort of mayonnaise, but that wouldn't have paired well with the mussels in my opinion, so its been left out. The mussels had a great, subtle flavor from the broth but still tasted like mussels (again, a plus for me, some may disagree). My only regret is that I didn't have some bread to mop up some of the broth, but hey, now we all know.

Stay tuned for part two of my quick and easy seafood dinner series next week (probably Wednesday).
Mike :)

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