Classic Moules Frites
Classic Moules Frites, a traditional preparation of mussels cooked with shallots, garlic, white wine, cream, and parsley and served with homemade French fries.
Moules Frites, a traditional preparation of mussels with French fries, is a classic for a reason.
While the mussels play a critical role, the cooking broth is the true star of this dish. The accompanying side of deliciously salty French fries is the icing on the cake. Or substitute crust sourdough bread. The more vehicles to soak up the sauce, the better!
Since I’m clearly not the person that came up with this wonderful pairing (we can thank the Belgians for that), I don’t think I need to sell most of you on this. However, you might still need some convincing to make this all in the comfort of your own kitchen.
Mussels are probably one of the quickest meals to prepare. Not only do they take just minutes to cook, they also happen to be affordable and require minimal ingredients.
However, the preparation of mussels can be intimidating, particularly if you haven’t cooked with them before. Cleaning, storing, soaking (or not soaking), and de-bearding – not to mention the fear of eating a bad mussel.
Unfortunately, most mussel recipes don’t explain the process well and generally state “mussels, cleaned and de-bearded” in the ingredient list. It is as if these tasks just magically happen.
In an effort to make things easier for you, here are my best mussel cooking tips:
Tips for Buying Mussels:
- Buy shellfish on the same day that you plan to cook them.
- Most grocery stores will sell mussels in mesh bags by weight or offer them loose. Most of the time, the pre-packaged bags will be a cheaper in price per pound. However, I prefer to buy them loose. Bagged mussels can often contain more cracked and dead mussels which will have to be discarded. If I do buy bagged mussels, I recommend purchasing an additional 1/2 pound or so to account for this.
- If mussels are offered loose, you will be expected to pick them out yourself. Choose mussels that are tightly closed, feel heavy for their size, and do not have visible cracks or broken shells.
- If you are planning on preparing the mussels for a main course, purchase roughly 1 pound per serving.
- Once you get home, remove the mussels from the bag, rinse each mussel briefly under running cold water, dry on a kitchen linen, and transfer to a shallow bowl and immediately store in the refrigerator. This ensures that the mussels will not sit in stagnant water, which causes them to die. Another option is to store the mussels over ice; however, ensure that there is proper drainage for any melting.
Tips for Cleaning and Prepping Mussels:
- Mussels tend to open slightly once stored in the fridge. If you are unsure whether or not a mussel is alive, tap the shell several times with your forefinger. If alive, the shell should slowly close. If it doesn’t do anything, discard the mussel. It is most likely dead.
- There is a lot of varying opinions on whether mussels should be soaked in water to remove grit and sad. Some argue that this step is not necessary (particularly since most mussels are farm-raised). Others prefer to always do this (regardless of how the mussels are raised). Personally, I like to soak mussels in cold water for about 10 minutes, then carefully scoop out the mussels and transfer to a dry bowl. This process always seems to leave me with a bowl of cloudy, gritty water, so it seems to help.
- Scrub and rinse each individual mussel under cold tap water to remove any excess grit and dirt. These steps can be done ahead of cooking.
- Roughly 10 to 15 minutes before cooking, de-beard the mussels. De-bearding too early weakens the mussels and might prematurely kill them (since the beard is attached to the body of the mussel). The beards are the stringy, brown parts of the mussel that are attached near the hinge. This allows them to anchor themselves to rocks or other objects. To remove the bears, grasp the strings between your thumb and forefinger and yank towards the hinge (pulling in the opposite direction will kill them). You can also use pliers or fish tweezers if the beards are particularly stubborn. If one or two can’t be removed, it is not the end of the world, but do not eat them.
Now that we’ve cleared up how to shop, clean, and prep mussels, let’s talk about this moules frites recipe! This is a very classic preparation of mussels cooked with white wine, shallots, garlic, and butter. Heavy cream is added for a touch of richness. Parsley adds brightness and color.
I highly recommend serving these mussels with homemade oven-baked fries. These are just as good as fried French fries, but are significantly easier to prepare. Crusty bread is another great choice, just make sure you have something to soak up the delicious cooking broth!
Classic Moules Frites
For the Oven-Baked Fries:
- 1½-2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes sliced into ½-inch wide batons (skin-on)
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- kosher salt
- freshly ground pepper
- ¼ cup flat leaf parsley leaves finely chopped
For the Mussels:
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 large shallots finely minced (about 5 ounces)
- 6 garlic cloves finely minced (about 2 tablespoons)
- 1 cup (240 mL) dry white wine
- ½ cup (120 mL) heavy cream
- 2 lbs cleaned and de-bearded mussels see tips in article
- ½ cup flat leaf parsley leaves finely chopped
For the Oven-Baked Fries:
- Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C) with a rack in the center position. Cut the potatoes into ½-inch wide batons (matchsticks - leaving the skin on). Soak the potatoes in cold water to remove the excess starch.
- Remove the potatoes from the water and transfer to a large soup pot. Cover hte potatoes with cold water (the water should reach 1 to 2-inches above the potatoes and place over high heat until the water begins to simmer. Cook the potatoes almost entirely through or until they can be just pierced with a knife (there should be some slight resistance) - be careful not to overcook them or they will begin to fall apart.
- Gently and carefully drain the potatoes in a colander, then set on several stacked kitchen linens to dry them thoroughly. Brush a half sheet pan generously with 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Add the potatoes and the remaining olive oil. Toss the potatoes until they're evenly coated. Spread out into an even thin layer and season generously with salt and pepper.
- Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, tossing halfway through the cooking time, or until the fries are crispy and golden brown on all sides. Remove from the oven and place pan on a wire rack. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper if needed. Toss with the finely chopped parsley. Serve immediately.
For the Mussels:
- Heat the butter and olive oil in large Dutch oven or wide-bottomed pot over medium-low heat. Add the minced shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until they are very soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute or until fragrant.
- Add the white wine and cream and bring to a boil. Add the mussels to the pot and cover with lid. Cook for roughly 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the mussels have opened (discard any that do not open during cooking process). Stir in finely chopped parsley and serve the mussels immediately with the broth.