Preparation and cooking time: ~10 minutes (not including the fries/chips)
Calories: ~300 (mussels and sauce only)
I always have a love-hate relationship with mussels. I have the utmost respect for these little shelled creatures after being violently ill no fewer than three times after eating them (in restaurants, I should add). I’ll spare you the details but suffice to say those were not pleasant experiences. As a result I prepare and store them with extreme caution and as for the eating of them? I have a rule. If the shell isn’t open enough to extract the entire mussel without opening the shell any further then I discard it. I’m sure my obsession has meant that I’ve discarded many perfectly edible mussels over the years, but I haven’t been sick since, so I guess I must be doing something right.
Another thing with mussels – I try to avoid looking at them while eating them. They just look so revolting! Is that just me who thinks that? In any case, as long as you can get past their appearance they’re a delicious and healthy meal, and very versatile. I like to keep my mussel dishes simple – steam them in a sauce… a kind of bastardized version of various varieties of sauce popular over here. Some add cream and parsley, but no wine; some add wine, but no cream. I chuck everything all in one and get a very pleasing result.
I was reading A_Boleyn’s site a few weeks ago and noticed that she’d made a list of things that she wanted to achieve in the kitchen. That’s a great idea, isn’t it? Over the years I must have encountered so, so many things I was eager to try, but I just never get around to it. In any case, one of the things on her list was mussels, so that motivated me to post the “moules frites” recipe I usually use around here.
We used to go to a restaurant in my town called “Léon de Bruxelles”. It’s quite a famous chain of Belgian restaurants, specialising in mussels. Despite it being a chain, the mussels are of excellent quality, and they come in all sorts of sauces – plain white wine and parsley; tomato; even a madras-style sauce, to name but a few. The sauces are like an extra treat at the end of the meal – once you’ve finished your giant pot of delicious mussels, infused with the flavour of the sauce, you can then go to town on the delicious, creamy remains with the ample quantities of fresh baguette they serve you!
For those of you who’ve noticed, you should see that my site is a little faster now (albeit not necessarily more stable… sorry if you still get some error messages ). I’ve made a few modifications which should, hopefully, make your browsing experience here a little less annoying. I’m working on setting up an unmanaged virtual private server though. That’s certainly quite the learning curve since you have to install everything (the web server, the database server etc) yourself. If anyone’s interested I might write up a guide on how to do it because it’s quite fun (for me at least).
Enjoy the rest of the post folks – some photos which I spoke about last time will come in a later post because I’ve been all kinds of busy this week!
(Mussels and Chips)
- Fresh mussels – you’ll need roughly 1 litre per person
- 200ml Cream
- 150ml Dry White Wine
- 1 large Onion, finely chopped
- 1 large bunch of Parsley, finely chopped
- 3tbsps Olive Oil
You’ll also need
- Chips or French fries (Shamefully, I buy them frozen because I’m terrible at making fries)
- Good bread
- Start off by preparing your mussels:
- Start by tapping the joint of each mussel onto a hard surface. The mussel should close quite tightly. If there are any that stay open, or which have broken shells, then discard these first as they are probably dead (and thus likely to cause food poisoning).
- Next, run a large bowl of cold, salted water. Place the mussels into the water for about 30 minutes. This should ensure they “spit out” any sand or grit they may have inside them. (If you’re cooking french fries you may want to consider putting these on now!)
- Rinse the mussels in a colander with plenty of cold, running water to wash away any remaining grit and sand.
- Finally, if your mussels have beards, remove these just before preparing the meal. You can do this by taking a good hold of the beard, twisting it slightly and firmly pulling back towards the joint of the shell.
- Take a pan which is large enough to contain the mussels and heat on a stove. Pour in the olive oil and then add the chopped onion and sauté lightly until starting to soften. Pour in the cream and when the cream is just starting to boil add in the white wine and the parsley.
- Bring to the boil once again and when bubbling vigorously, pour the mussels into the pan. Stir around well to cover with the sauce and then cover the pan. The mussels will cook in the steam from the sauce quite quickly – usually about 3 minutes is all it takes, though you can leave them a little longer if you want to be sure. You can check if they’re done by removing the lid from the pan. Cooked mussels should have opened nicely, exposing the flesh inside. Serve up in a large bowl with some of the sauce, fries and bread, and enjoy. If you find any mussels which haven’t opened, or have only opened a tiny bit then discard these.