Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Moules Frites and Nostalgia

First off, thanks to the brilliant boy my youngest sister is dating, you can now find me at www.theunemployedcook.com, as well as through the blogger portal. This was done to make it easy for new readers directed from the magazine to find the site. Nifty, huh? Thanks a million to the ever helpful Kid Gravy (when are you going to come teach us about perfect biscuits?).

And now, on to the evening meal. I've been flipping through pictures from our honeymoon lately, trying to get my act together and have some printed out, but instead of productivity, this has inspired a wave of nostalgia. Chris and I visited Paris and Nice for two blissful weeks, doing nothing but eating, relaxing, and enjoying eachothers company. Being an ultimately food minded person, I couldn't help but think back to favorite meals we shared. Besides eating nearly our weight in duck (it's our favorite and harder to come by here), we ate lots of Moules Frites, gorgeous mussels cooked in a silky wine and garlic concoction, served with plenty of crispy frites to dip in the remaining sauce. Paired with a sweet-tart Lambic, it was pure heaven, I swear.

And so, after skimming over a recipe for mussels and fries in the latest Real Simple, I seriously couldn't stand it. I was going to need this dish in the near future, otherwise we were risking some sort of culinary wanderlust-inspired meltdown.

When I happened upon a large box of New Zealand Green Mussels in my grocer's freezer, I knew that it must be fate. Let me tell you right off the bat, I know frozen is no way to have a mussel, but you have to grant the poor landlocked mountain girl a few concessions, lest she cry all over you and ruin your nice new shirt. Okay? Okay. Also worth a mention, these mussels were enormous, and their shells were the most incredible green color, I couldn't help but marvel at them.

This recipe is terrifically simple, with only a time investment (for the frites), and a bit of mind-numbing chopping. The end result, however, will transport you and have you making swoony faces in the direction of the one you love.

Moules Frites
with thanks to Real Simple Magazine
serves 2-3

for the oven-fried frites:

2 large white new potatoes
3 Tbsp butter
splash olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss butter in a large glass baking dish, drizzle a bit of oil over it, and chuck it into the heating oven. While the butter melts, slice your potatoes into french-fry sized pieces (the thicker you go, the longer they will take to crisp up, so go thinner). Once the butter has melted completely, remove the pan from the oven and swirl the oil around to coat completely. Sprinkle the hot oil generously with salt and pepper, then add the potato, toss very well to coat.

Return pan to oven. Cook until crispy and golden brown, about 45-60 minutes. Gently toss once during cooking (gently is key, the potatoes will be soft and might want to fall apart). Once the fries are about 20 minutes away from completion, begin the mussels.

for the mussels:

4 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, slivered
1 large leek, halved and sliced into half-moons
1.5 cups dry rose*
10 cherry tomatoes, diced roughly
handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
2 pounds mussels, scrubbed and debearded if they don't come that way
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

*any dry white wine is fine, but I love the sunset-colored broth the rose leaves you with.

Melt the butter and oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Once melted, add garlic and leek and sweat until very tender, but not browning, around 6-8 minutes. Add the wine and simmer for 5 minutes. Toss in tomatoes and half of the parsley (reserve the rest for garnish), as well as a scant teaspoon salt and fat pinch or two of pepper. Turn heat up to medium and bring to a low boil. Simmer for 2-3 minutes, then taste to check seasoning.

Toss mussels in the fragrant broth and clamp a lid on. Cook until mussels open, 3-4 minutes (discard any mussels that do not open). Divide mussels into shallow bowls and ladle generous portions of the gorgeous broth over them, topping with a sprinkle of the remaining parsley. Serve with lots of crispy, salty frites and a simple green salad alongside.

Sitting here, after happily devouring my delicious dinner, sipping a cassis lambic bought for this sort of occasion, I realize this is a rare moment of pure contentedness. All too often my bouts of nostalgia mire me in melancholy, but it seems that recreating this oh-so-French/Belgian meal has instead sent me soaring on the back of happy memories.


Acme Instant Food said...

Great pictures! Frites = the perfect food in my book (I'm a simple guy)! Looks like heaven.

Lauren said...

Thank you! I can't wait to try this, and promise to never again scorn Whole Foods' frozen mussels.

Gorgeous photos, too, darling.

Skeezix said...

Frites come to me.

(I think no other words are needed).

wheresmymind said...

That looks really yum...I've heard that cooking muscles makes your kitchen reek for a while?

Marianne said...

AIF--fries are always the first thing I want after being sick for a few days. The staff of life!

Wheres--My kitchen smells fine, even after (oops) leaving the shells out all night. Maybe if you have a small or poorly ventilated kitchen it would be an issue? Dunno.

Skeezix said...

After my surgery last year all I wanted was salty french fries and mint chocolate chip ice cream.

T.- said...

I'm a local and was sooo happy to find a local food blog of someone who appreciates good food...so hard to find in this area!

Lis said...

Marianne you're killin' me.. it's 7:30 in the morning, I'm still on my first cup of coffee and now all I'm going to do is think about mussels and crispedy fries ALL DAY LONG.. yeah right.. I'll be thinking about this until I can actually prepare it for myself and Hubbs. Thanks! :P

foodandlife said...

Wow that looks stunning!
Are the mussels resting on something or are they really turquoise ringed on the inside?

Marianne said...

Green mussels are indeed that emerald color naturally--aren't they gorgeous?!

Pamela said...

Brilliant photos and really delicious looking food!!

amanda said...

i've never seen oven frites look so damn tasty. magnifique, mariannea, magnifique!

ann said...

yeah, i'm blown away by those oven fries! I can't wait to try them once the heat dies down. so cool! thanks!

heidi said...

I had wonderful moules frites in Brussels last year and have been craving them since. Thanks for the inspiration!

I just came across your blog and have been bookmarking lots of recipes to try. You have a very accessible, personable style, much like The Amateur Gourmet. Can't wait to read more!

Nerissa said...

Mmmmmmmmm... that looks so good. I can't wait to get to France in a week and have some!

Boston Chef said...

looks fantastic... frites - what a great alternative to crusty bread for dipping into the mussel broth!

Kevin said...

I'm just gonna quit stopping by here. I can't handle the disappointment.

Marianne said...

Aw, it can't be that bad, can it? I know you are tired of my excuses, but I have two reviews, a proposal, and a TV shoot to finish this week before I can even get near the kitchen. I'll be back though, and soon.

heidi said...

Just wanted to add that I made this tonight and it turned out absolutely perfect. The fries were amazing and the broth was really tasty. I subbed sundried tomatoes and added a splash of chicken broth.

Thanks again!

Marianne said...

Heidi, I'm so glad the recipe turned out well and that you enjoy my blog!

HappySlob said...

Gorgeous blog!! Those fries (okay, frites) look utterly DELECTABLE and I'm craving some right now. A bit better than nasty old frozen fries, I'd expect...

Thanks for an inspiring food blog - it's amazing.

Take care,