Moules Frites

Serves: 2
Cost: ~€5
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.

Moules Frites

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!

Moules Frites

(Mussels and Chips)

Ingredients

Moules Frites ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  1. 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.

    Mussels

  2. 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.
    Creating the sauce
  3. 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.
    Moules Frites

Comments

  1. says

    Great sales job Charles! ;-). Actually, funny enough, I feel the same way about mussels. I’ve never been ill from them but pregnancy seems to have turned me away and it has never fully come back ;0(. My husband’s favorite line with mussels reminds me of your second point, ‘you don’t want to be investigating the anatomy of a mussel too closely’ lol. So there you have it – common ground on moules! Having said that, your broth is very appetizing and your moules look amazing (very nice clicks – not easy to capture the spirit of a mussel ;-)). I don’t believe for a second that you’re not good at making fries!!

    • says

      Hi Kelly, it’s too bad… they are a wonderful meal when they’re wonderfully fresh. I love smelling the bowl they’re sitting in while I’m preparing them… it just smells of “ocean”… I can almost feel the sea-breeze against my skin!

      As for fries – you’d better believe it… my fries are atrocious. That’s something I plan on doing a very “scientific” post on one day. I’m going to try a whole range of different preparation and cooking methods. I *will* make good fries!

  2. says

    Your mussels look lovely! I prepare mussels regularly (though not often) but always “marinière”, i.e. white wine, parsley etc. I have never been ill, but I always first check if they are not opened before I cook them (although they should be very cold, straight from the fridge, otherwise even the healthy ones open) and discard them. Then, just like you do, I discard any mussel which is not open at least at 50% during the cooking process. It’s better not to risk… And I always have chips with moules! It’s obligatory to dip them in the sauce of course! (so I don’t prepare them often alas… maybe if I buy one day the famous French chips fryer, frying a big batch with 1 tablespoon oil…).
    I have never had them with cream, but I bet it tastes great. I always make sure I fry them in butter and shallots, but with cream one doesn’t need butter really.
    Good luck with the website changes!

    • says

      Hi Sissi, I’d heard of this fryer… I’m quite curious about it. I don’t think I know anyone who has one so I’d love to know if it’s effective or not. I think chips are very important with such a dish… they really round it off nicely. The restaurant chain I was talking about has the chips “à volonté”, but they start off by giving you quite a small bowl and they’re often so busy it’s hard getting hold of a waiter to get more chips unfortunately.

      I’d really recommend serving them in a creamy madras sauce – either home-made or from that restaurant if you get a chance. It sounds like a curious combination but is my favourite!

  3. Hotly Spiced says

    I love how there are so few ingredients in this recipe. It would really let the mussels stand out. I think mussels are unpleasant to look at too. Well done with the site! Xx

  4. says

    Charles, I really enjoy mussels and if I weren’t so full I could barely move after gorging on sushi with my nephew an hour or so agob I’d dwell on my very good experiences. In fact, I’ve only had one bad experience eating them at a very very expensive restaurant in Chicago 20 plus years ago. Like you, I don’t particularly enjoy looking at thev very closely, just swallow and then dip my crusty bread in the soupy broth they’ve been steamed in. Good times. :)

    PS: French fries have never been part of the meal however.

    • says

      Hi A_- Maybe it’s a French/Belgian thing… I’ve always associated fries and mussels as belonging together. I’d feel like something was missing if I got just mussels and some bread!

  5. says

    You know we love our mussels Charles! It’s the one seafood all four of us could eat and eat and eat and eat. So delicious! And the kids will never forget when we collected our own mussels up in Maine. This meal would be a big hit here. And I too throw away any shells that don’t open and any shells that are cracked. I got sick from mussels on our honeymoon. Left me sick for a week. You think I’d stay away from them, but nope….they’re too good. :)I love the photos of these too – they look like I could pop them out of the screen and eat them.

    • says

      Yikes, sick for a week? The few times it’s happened to me it’s “hit” me very fast and then a couple of hours later I’m ok again. I know there’s vary degrees of severity though. I guess I might have just eaten “one bad one” or something, while maybe you could have eaten a bad batch. I read that mussels from certain US coastal areas should be avoided during certain times of the year because the water is warm and certain bacteria is much more abundant… bleurgh!

  6. says

    Charles, your post is making me laugh out loud. I am sorry to hear that you have been sick before and seafood is one of the number reasons people get food poisoning. I know I just got very, very ill for 13 days after my trip to Koh Samui after eating some bad shellfish. It is not fun at all but your very useful tips will certainly keep everyone healthy eating your delicious mussels and frites. I like your addition to cream to this recipe and of course the wine and lots of bread to soak up all of those delicious juices. Take Care, BAM

  7. says

    I love moules and prepare them a lot in Spain. And now you’ve reminded me that we have a great Belgian restaurant round the corenr from us in Bexhill so we may make a little visit this weekend!

    • says

      Hi Chica, they’re very nice when they’re well done aren’t they?! The restaurant near me serves them in a creamy madras sauce which is incredibly good!

  8. says

    I love moules frites and these look very simply and perfectly prepared. Another tip about mussels is that before you cook them, if the shell is open a bit and doesn’t close firmly when you tap on it, you should discard it because the mussel may be dead. That’s a tough one to determine, but can help with the ick sick factor! I think your rule, pretty much sums up protecting yourself! :)

    • says

      Hi Betsy, indeed – I chucked quite a few away based on that test. I always feel bad about it, but it’s not really worth the risk is it?!

    • says

      Hi Raymund – the mussels are definitely nice on their own but as a die-hard carb addict I do think the chips really “make” the meal.

  9. says

    I thought I posted a comment on this last week, sorry about that. I adore muscles, but you are quite right, they are damn ugly. The simple flavours of your sauce definitely allow the beautiful mussel flavour to stand out. JT made one some time ago with a moroccan profile and he added chick peas to it, but there is nothing like a good crusty french bread to sop up the delicious juices from the sauce.

    • says

      Hi Eva, did you ever post the recipe for the Moroccan mussel dish? I vaguely remember you did… I’ll have to go and have a look. I’d love to give it a try!

  10. says

    I have never been sick after eating these, so I did not even know that eating unopened mussels could be dangerous. Thanks for this little gem of info…..I will be more careful from now on. Because I absolutely adore seafood, and I have forced enough of these crusty shells open. Cream, wine and onions…I am sold!

    • says

      Hi Minnie – I think if they’re well prepared and lovely and fresh then it’s normally not a problem at all. You just have to be careful sometimes :)

  11. says

    It has taken me many years to learn to like mussels. I’ve always found them tough and flavorless. However, in just the past 2 years I have had several different mussels dishes at restaurants that have been delicious and have changed my mind about them. Now I’m ready to try them at home. Thanks for the tips on cooking them. I’ve never been sick due to them, and I want to keep it that way. This recipe looks quite simple and very tasty and might just be a great one to start with. Thanks!!!!

    • says

      Hi MJ – fresh mussels are absolutely wonderful. I find if they’ve been frozen, or are over-cooked then absolutely… it’s like eating a bit of car-tyre (same for squid… it can be so delicious, but when frozen or over-done it’s as tough as old boots!).

      I hope you get a chance to try this… I think you’ll enjoy it :)

  12. says

    I like the taste of soup mussels create and dip in french fries is really my favorite, but I am not a huge fan of mussels for some reason. I’d eat 2-3 at most but I can’t eat like my husband does. Haha. I always love this simple dish!

  13. says

    What a great classic. I ADORE mussels in any shape or form. One of my favourite ingredients and cheap too. You can’t beat them done your way and the left over juices and sauce is so delicious. Yum…that is all I have to say :)

    • says

      Hi Anneli. Sadly the market where I bought these ones from had just sold out of French ones, so I had to settle for… I think they were Dutch ones. Nowhere near as good, and the colour was much more pale, almost anaemic. Still pretty good though, but I’ll be aiming for the French ones next time :)

    • says

      Thanks a lot! I love fresh mussels, and I don’t know about where you are , but around here they’re not actually too expensive either. Very versatile too, although this serving method is my favourite.

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