Moules frites, or steamed mussels with French fries, is a great example of how you don’t need that many dishes to make a memorable meal. This menu always evokes memories for me of many different wonderful meals enjoyed at a variety of French bistros. Mussels steamed in garlic and wine, twice-fried frites, a simple salad, and crusty bread to sop up all the broth makes for a great simple summer meal.
Prince Edward Island (PEI) mussels are readily available and of consistently good quality. Whatever kind of mussels you choose, be sure to debeard and scrub them well. We follow the Belgian method of “blanching” the potatoes in oil and then freezing them for four hours before deep-frying to get the crispiest frites, so be sure to allow for that time in your cooking schedule. You can also freeze the blanched potatoes for up to a month ahead.
On the menu:
Mussels Steamed in Garlic and Wine
Salad of Baby Red Lettuce and Frisée with Sherry Vinaigrette
Creamy Lemon Butter Sauce
MUSSELS STEAMED IN GARLIC AND WINE
6 pounds Prince Edward Island mussels
4 tablespoons butter
1 large or 2 small fennel bulbs, cored and julienned
½ cup minced garlic
1 750-ml bottle of dry white wine
1 bunch of thyme, tied with twine
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 bunch of fresh flat- leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Debeard the mussels and rinse and scrub them to get rid of any sand. Refrigerate until ready to cook.
Melt the butter in a large, wide pot over medium heat. Add the fennel and garlic and sauté until aromatic. Add the wine, thyme bundle, and lemon juice and cook until the liquid has reduced by
Add the mussels and cover the pot. Cook, shaking the pot occasionally, until all the mussels are open, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the mussels to a large serving bowl, discarding any that have not opened. Remove the thyme bundle and pour the broth over the mussels. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately.
5 large Yukon gold potatoes (about
2½ pounds), scrubbed but not peeled
6 cups peanut or vegetable oil
Trim the ends of the potatoes so that each potato is 4 inches long. Cut into ¼-inch planks on a mandoline to ensure they are all even, then cut the planks lengthwise into sticks. Set the cut potatoes aside in a bowl of cold water.
In a 5-quart pot over medium heat, heat the oil to 300°F. (If you don’t have a thermometer, drop a small cube of bread into the oil. If the oil bubbles, it’s ready.) Drain the potatoes and dry completely with paper towels. Working in batches, carefully drop the potatoes into the hot oil and blanch them for 2 to 3 minutes. Do not let them brown. With a spider or large slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes to paper towels and let them cool completely, about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat under the oil, but do not discard.
At this point, you can wrap the potatoes in plastic and hold in the fridge for at least 4 hours or up to 2 days, or freeze them for up to a month before frying a second time, just before serving. If using from the freezer, let the potatoes come to room temperature before frying a second time.
When ready to serve, reheat the oil to 350°F and, working in batches, carefully lower the potatoes into the hot oil. Fry until crispy and golden brown, about 8 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Sprinkle immediately with salt. Serve hot.
In keeping with the Belgian style, there’s really nothing more delicious than aioli for dipping the frites. It can be made a few days in advance and refrigerated.
Makes about 2 cups
2 cups mayonnaise
¼ cup chopped fresh tarragon
¼ cup chopped fresh chives
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, tarragon, chives, lemon zest and juice, and salt and pepper to taste.
SALAD OF BABY RED LETTUCE AND FRISÉE WITH SHERRY VINAIGRETTE
½ cup sherry vinegar
1½ cups extra-virgin olive oil
2 shallots, minced
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
7 cups baby red lettuce
7 cups frisée
In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, oil, and shallots and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Just before serving, pour the dressing into a large salad bowl, add the greens, and toss with your hands until the leaves are well dressed. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
CREAMY LEMON BUTTER SAUCE
This delicious sauce is perfect for dunking both the mussels and the crostini.
Makes about 3 cups
2 cups dry white wine 4 shallots, minced
2 pounds (8 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
¼ cup heavy cream
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the wine and shallots and reduce until only ¼ cup of liquid remains. Remove the pan from the heat and slowly whisk in the butter, a few cubes at a time. Once the butter is completely incorporated, whisk in the heavy cream and salt to taste. Serve immediately or hold in a warm space.
A good, crusty sourdough loaf is key here. These crostini are great for eating on their own or sopping up all the delicious seafood juices.
1 long sourdough baguette, sliced on a long bias
2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Lay the bread slices in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, basil, parsley, and salt. Brush the herb oil on top of the bread slices.
Toast in the oven until the bread is golden brown but the center is still fairly soft, 10 to 12 minutes. Serve immediately with the mussels.
Excerpted from Peter Callahan’s Party Food. Copyright © 2017 by Peter Callahan. Photographs copyright © 2017 by Con Poulos. Published in the United States by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.
This original recipe article first appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of City Style and Living Magazine