Moules-Frites, or Mosselen-Friet
(Belgian steamed mussels and fries)
These mussels from Brussels, paired with fries, are a favorite feast for Belgians. Moules (mosselen in Dutch) are mussels, and frites refers to pommes frites, or french fries. (Note: The French and Belgians both claim to have invented fried potato sticks. We won't try to settle that argument here.)
Moules-frites is offered at almost all Belgian restaurants, and it is equally popular in France. It makes great date food. The mussels can be flavored in a number of ways. This recipe makes a bowl of basic moules marinières — mussels steamed in white wine and butter.
For the fries
- Oil for deep frying
- Potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch sticks -- 2 pounds
- Salt -- to season
For the mussels
- Butter -- 3 tablespoons
- Mussels, scrubbed and debearded -- 3 pounds
- Shallots or onion, minced -- 1/3 cup
- White wine -- 1 cup
- Parsley, finely chopped -- 1 or 2 tablespoons
- Salt and pepper -- to season
- Heat at least 3 inches of oil in a deep fryer or deep pot to 370°F. Working in batches if necessary, frie the potatoes until cooked through and tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove to a rack-lined baking sheet and set aside to cool. Keep the oil ready for later.
- Heat the butter in a large pot over medium flame. Add the chopped shallots and saute until they are cooked through and translucent, about 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add the mussels, white wine, parsley and salt and pepper to season. Bring to a boil, then cover, remove heat to low and steam, shaking occasionally until the mussels are all steamed open and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Remove the mussels from heat and set aside.
- Increase the temperature of the oil to 385°F and fry the cooled potatoes until browned and crispy on the outside, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove to a platter or bowl and spinkle generously with salt.
- Give each diner a bowl for mussels, a plate for fries and another plate or bowl for the empty shells. Set a small bowl of mayonnaise on the table as a condiment for the fries.
Moules Frites Variations
- Potatoes: Potatoes for french fries should be neither too wet or too dry. It's best to use a starchy potato, like a russet, or an all-purpose potato. Waxy potatoes tend to be a bit too dry for fries. Belgians use the Bintje variety of potato that is popular in both Belgium and France.
- Mussels: Vary the seasoning for the mussels as you like. Add a big dollop of minced garlic along with the shallots or onion. Use beer instead of wine. Add a splash of Pernod and a squeeze of lemon. Drop in a big pinch of curry powder and finish with cream.