Mrs. Jackson Cooks

Life through food

Food favourite: Moules Frites (or mussels & chips)

on November 28, 2011

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I absolutely adore Moules Frites, and given an opportunity, I’ll order it at pretty much any restaurant I go to. Probably the best place I’ve had them was in France (big surprise there!) on the Ile de Re. I think the mussels had been caught earlier that day, as they were unbelievably fresh.

I’ve never actually cooked mussels from fresh (or alive!) before. But the fishmonger was selling them at £3 a kilo – which is just pennies really. I’m always impressed with the quality at the fishmonger (well it is in Chorlton and does have a tendency to win awards, as does the butchers, the deli and the co-op grocers, I am pretty much in foodie heaven where I live!) so I thought I’d give them a go. They didn’t dissapoint – most were still alive (and reminded me by the odd squeaking and creaking they’d make when I was preparing them! Don’t let this put you off, its more disconcerting than worrying), pretty much cleaned and almost none cracked. There were fewer to be removed than in most restaurant servings. They’d come from Cornwall, by the way. And I’d left them in my fridge for a day (in the bottom wrapped in newspaper , removed from plastic bags, as recommended by the fishmonger).

I cooked them in a very simple white wine and cream sauce and they were utterly delicious, exceedingly fresh and I don’t think I found any that hadn’t opened on cooking. They also take about 5 minutes to cook (and about 15-20 mins to prep – so be warned) so it’s a very simple, very delicious, very cheap and very healthy diner.

As for the frites, well, I’ve never cooked proper french fries before. I do baked wedges on a regular basis, but fries are something different. And you can’t have moules frites with wedges! So, I did a bit of googling and found this blog on how to make the perfect fries http://stickycrows.blogspot.com/2006/04/how-to-make-perfect-french-fries.html

I followed it pretty much to the letter (as I didn’t know what I was doing), and they were delicious – and just as they said – crispy on the outside and soft in the middle. Wonderful. I did a large baking potato per person and this was just the right amount.

The mussels recipe was actually adapted from the one in the Twelve Days of Christmas cookbook by the Hairy Bikers. I didn’t bother with the brandy – and just kept it simple with white wine and single cream.

One word of warning – I used my largest saucepan and only just fit in the kilo of mussels, and struggled in mixing them properly. It can be done, but you may want to mix as much as you can, then fish out the mussels into a serving bowl and add the parsley and cream to the juices at the bottom before pouring the sauce over the mussels.

You can, of course, serve with baguettes instead of fries to soak up the juices. 1 kilo is good for 2 people for a main course. If doing as a starter – I’d suggest 4 people per kilo. I worked out, it cost about £5.50 in total for the both of us. Very bargainous! Maybe bump it up to £6 if you have to buy the herbs – mine are in my garden.

Moules Frites

Serves 2

  • 1 kg fresh mussels in their shells
  • 2 large baking potatoes, peeled and cut into thin sticks (see blog link for sizes) a la mcdonalds
  • Approx 300ml oil (I used a mix of olive and rapeseed – but anything really – nothing too strong like sesame or flavoured oils).
  • 25g butter
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • handful of fresh thyme, leaves only, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • handful of chopped fresh parsley
  • 30ml white wine
  • pepper
  • 30ml single (or double if you prefer) cream
  1. First clean the mussels by rinsing under cold water to remove seaweed, mud and anything else. If it’s stubborn use a blunt knife or scrubbing brush. Discard any that are broken or cracked. Any that are open – if they don’t close with a sharp tap, discard them too. Remove the ‘beards’ or bits of stringy stuff hanging off them – just pull it out, you’ll need to be forceful. Or if it really won’t come out, snip off as close to the shell as possible, with scissors.
  2. Next, put the oil in a flat broad based frying pan (see the blog link for a photo of one). You want about 1/2inch to 1inch of oil in the pan. I started with 1/2 inch. Do not turn on the heat. Put the potatoes in the cold oil and turn the heat up the medium-high (my hob is gas and has, low, medium and high settings – I put it between the medium and highest setting on the dial). Leave them and get on with cooking the mussels – it will take a good 10 minutes for them to cook. But hold your nerve, they’re worth it.
  3. Heat the butter in a large saucepan (the largest you have), on a medium heat. When it’s bubbling, add the shallots and garlic and fry until softened but not browned. Then add the wine, thyme, bay leaf, half the parsley, and a good amount of pepper (the mussels are salty enough, you don’t need salt). Bring to the boil for a minute or two.
  4. Then add in the mussels and cover with a lid. Steam for about two minutes. Then take a very large spatula or slotted spoon and carefully stir the mussels, bringing the bottom ones to the top and vice versa. Replace the lid and steam for a further 3 minutes or until the mussels are fully open.
  5. Remove the mussels from the pan with a slotted spoon and place in a large bowl.
  6. Add the cream and remaining parsley to the juices and stir well, continue to heat if it needs thickening a bit but don’t boil if it’s single cream.
  7. By this time your chips should be looking golden and crispy on the outside. Remove them from the oil onto some kitchen towel to drain.
  8. Pour the sauce over the mussels and serve it all immediately with a glass of crisp white wine.
  9. Enjoy 🙂

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