Moules Frites

Ah, diet food! Well, not actually low in calories, but it is a relatively light meal, at least in comparison to a large bone-in rib steak. I went to the store with the expectation of returning with some large chunk of gilled (no, I have never tried whale) pelagic predator, otherwise known as tuna or swordfish. But the mussels looked so damned good and fresh, I received special dispensation from my wife to deviate from the plan. But what are mussels without French fries? Nothing! And quite conveniently, I had several great looking russet potatoes.* So, for no other reason than to be respectful of the history of the relationship between mussels and potatoes, I had to make fries. I won’t bore you with the details; just fry them twice, once at low temperature and once at high temperature.

The classic recipe for Moules Frites calls for shallots and garlic. But I had no shallots worth looking at, unless you like pretty green shoots poking out of them. So, I had to settle for onion. But because I am fond of making more work for myself, I decided to caramelize the onions very slowly in butter and just a bit of olive oil. And that takes time. But I think it paid off, because the sweetness of the onions blended wonderfully with the rest of the flavors and seemed to make it a more substantial dish. After cooking the onions for what seemed like hours I added two cloves of garlic, chopped in my trusty Garlic Zoom. I cooked the garlic for another 10 minutes to eliminate the sharpness and to keep the caramelization going. I was left with a great-looking base for the mussels. A quick deglazing on high heat with about 8-10 ounces of white wine, a teaspoon of sour cream (because I don’t stock crème fraîche), and I was ready to toss the mussels into the pot. The next detail is important, so try to focus. Don’t overcook the mussels! They take just a few minutes in a covered pot. As soon as they are open take them off the stove! The residual heat is more than enough to finish the cooking. Toss in some chopped parsley, pour the whole mess into a big bowl, and you are ready to eat. For a more elegant presentation you could shell the mussels; there is no neat way of doing that, but using your hands will only take a few minutes. A good baguette is always a useful tool for sopping up the incredible broth, but some of you might think that bread and fried potatoes is not a healthy addition to a light meal. Wimps.

*As I write this it seems silly, but in fact, they did look great! Smooth-skinned, no blemishes or eyes, and when I cut them into shoestrings with the mandolin, the flesh looked fantastic. They made spectacular fries.

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