Mussels and Fries

There is something special about mussels and fries, or moules et frites as the Belgians say, that cannot be captured in words. I love this dish, and have created my own version, as you do when you make something often.

This is so tasty, and good for you – mussels are high in zinc, selenium, vitamin B and folate, so what’s not to love? Even Picky Pants loves mussels, weird I know, for a child who won’t eat sweet potato…if I didn’t laugh I’m sure I would cry.

To be honest, I often don’t bother with the fries, or I buy oven fries, and just make sure I have fresh crusty bread for mopping up the sauce.  You can also serve a salad with this, if the carb overload freaks you out. This recipe looks complex, but trust me, it’s pretty easy.

Mussels and Fries

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 medium sized potatoes
  • 750ml vegetable oil
  • 1.5kg mussels
  • 1 leek
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 250ml white wine
  • 1/4 cup cream

The timing for this meal is pretty tricky, so you need to have everything ready to go before you start.  It also helps to have the oven on so you can pop the fries in while you finish off the mussels.

First off you need to cut up your fries.  I used this handy thing: a mandolin. You could leave the skin on the potatoes if you like, but I have Picky Pants to contend with, so I peeled mine.  I just piled all of the uncooked fries on a plate like this as I went.

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I don’t have a thermometer, but I did read somewhere once that to test how hot the oil is you put a cube of bread in, and if it browns in 10 seconds the oil is ready to go. So this is what I do, and it seems to work…

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I double cook my fries, so the first run through you’re not looking for the fries to turn a golden brown, you just want to cook them through at this stage.  Keep your batches smallish – I ended up cooking around 4-5 batches.

You don’t want the fries to stick together so stir them a couple of times while they’re cooking.  Keep an eye on how the oil behaves while you cook your first batch.  If the oil starts to bubble right up to the top of the pan you might want to turn the heat down a little.

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Each batch will take 2 or 3 minutes to cook. Once you’ve finished your first run through, start cooking the mussels, because the second time through the fries will not take very long at all.

I’m cooking with live mussels, although you can buy vacuum packed or frozen if you wish.  When you buy mussels you should get them home as quickly as possible and get them out of the packaging so they don’t suffocate.  I like to run them under cold water, pop them in a colander over a plate, and cover with a wet tea towel before putting them in the fridge.

To prepare the mussels for cooking you need to pull off the beard, which is the green fuzzy thing hanging out of the mussel.

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You should also check that all of them are closed, or close if you tap them sharply – if they stay open you should discard them as it means they are no longer with us.  You should also discard any broken mussels, as you don’t know how long they’ve been like that, and they could have been exposed to all sorts of nasties.

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Now you’re ready for the cookin’.  Slice the leek and garlic finely and gently fry in a large saucepan, stirring from time to time.  I also add a little salt at this time, so go ahead and do that if you like.  Once they’ve softened, celebrate and pour yourself a glass of wine, and then pour another cup and add to the pan and bring to the boil.  Add the mussels at this point and put the lid on, giving the pan a shake from time to time.

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This part doesn’t take very long, but while it’s happening you could start cooking the fries again.  Just make sure the oil is hot by throwing one of your fries in – if it sizzles, it’s ready! You can cook quite large batches now, and they need less than a minute per batch. Place a couple of pieces of paper towel on the bottom of your serving dish to soak up excess oil.

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The mussels should have opened up by now; you don’t want to overcook them or they’ll go rubbery, so put all of the opened ones in a dish and if there are any that are unopened given them another minute in the pan and then discard if they’re still closed. You should have a bit of the wine sauce left, so add the cream and get it boiling again just for a second.

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Place the mussels in individual serving bowls, pour over the sauce and serve with a platter of fries, and chunks of bread. I hope you enjoy this meal as much as we do.

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