Genève’s Kitchen

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Muss(els) with No Fuss

June 8th, 2006 · 4 Comments

mussels1.jpgAs you’ve probably been able to gather from the number of seafood recipes on my site so far, I really love seafood! In addition to great flavor, seafood is incredibly easy to prepare and often takes only minutes to cook (it’s super healthy too). Mussels are one of those classics that seem (at least they always did to me) like they’d be a complicated thing to tackle. Well, I’m pleased to inform you that that is not the case. These little guys couldn’t be easier to prepare and it’s an especially fun meal for a small crowd because it makes for a great communal eating experience. I often serve mussels in the traditional Belgian manner with fries on the side (a.k.a. moules et frites). I either make homemade fries using Yukon gold potatoes or sweet potatoes or when I’m a little short on time I just go with a bag of pre-cut frozen fries from the store and pop them in the oven.
As for the mussels – they require even less time than the fries! When you bring home the mussels from the store you’ll want to make sure to open the bag in which they’ve been stored to give them air to breathe and store in the fridge until you’re ready to use them. The mussels need to be rinsed and if there are any little seaweed-y bits on any of the mussels (sometimes called the beard) they should be removed using a knife. Also, if you have mussels which are open, squeeze them closed with your hand for about 30 seconds, if they remain open once you release it then it’s not a good mussel and should be discarded. The opposite holds true after you’ve cooked the mussels, any that are still closed should be thrown away. Keep this tip in mind when you’re buying the mussels and make sure that the fish monger is selecting only the closed mussels for you.

The common method for cooking mussels is to create a flavorful broth in which to toss the mussels. The steam from the broth will cook and gently open the little shells so that they can bask in the savory aromas. They only take about 5 minutes!

These tasty mussels along with a warm crusty loaf of French bread to soak up the delicious broth and a fresh salad of mixed greens in a light vinaigrette is a meal that has all the “muss” with no “fuss”. Oh, and don’t forget the frites!

I serve the mussels in a large bowl, broth included, in the center of the table and I provide each participant with their own little bowl for placing discarded shells. What I love about serving the mussels this way is that it creates a shared experience – one that’s laid back, comfortable, and slightly messy but in a good way.

Moules et Frites (Mussels and Fries)

For the Moules (Mussels):

Factor about 1 lb. of mussels per person (that’s about 12-15 mussels)

1 Large shallot or 2 small shallots finely chopped
2 Cups of white wine – any kind that you like to drink (I like to have about an inch or two of wine on the bottom of the pot so if your pot is wider you can add more wine as you see fit)
2 Cloves of garlic finely chopped
1 Tablespoon butter
2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 Anchovy fillets (optional but I think they add great subtle flavor here)
1 small handful of fresh basil chopped
A few turns of the pepper mill (freshly cracked black pepper)

For the Frites (Fries):

Potatoes of your choice, I like Yukon gold or Sweet Potatoes for this – the quantity will vary depending on the size of potatoes you find, just get enough for a sheet pan full of sliced potatoes. Factor 1 potato per person.

Olive oil

1) Prepare the mussels according to the description above (rinse with water, remove any beards, discard any open mussels that won’t close with prompting), if not using right away be sure to open the bag that the mussels came in and leave in the fridge.

2) Begin preparing the fries since these will take the longest – if using the pre-frozen kind follow the directions on the package. If making fresh then set oven to 425F and cut the potatoes into fries-like shapes – toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper and place in the pre-heated oven. They will need about 30-40 minutes. Give them a gentle toss halfway through the cooking process to allow even roasting. They will be done when they are tender and soft on the inside while slightly crispy on the outside.

3) When the fries are about halfway done you can begin preparing the mussels. Heat a big pot (one that has an accompanying lid to be used later on) over medium heat. Add the olive oil and butter. While they are heating up chop the shallots and garlic and add it to the pot. Allow the shallots and garlic to saute for a while until translucent. Add the anchovies during this time so that they have time to melt into the olive oil and butter. Add a little freshly cracked black pepper and after everything has sauteed for about 5 minutes or so add the white wine. Allow it to all cook together, make sure to stir well in case there are any flavorful bits on the bottom of the pan.

4) When the wine comes up to a simmer (soft rumbling along the surface) add the mussels give them all a good stir and place the lid on top. When the lid is on give the whole pot a little shuffle and leave alone for about 3-5 minutes – I usually find it takes 5 minutes. You want to see all the mussels opened when you lift the lid. If you lift and see that most aren’t opened continue to cook for another 1-2 minutes longer. When done sprinkle in the fresh basil and stir. I then pour everything into a huge bowl to serve at the table family-style.

Bon Appetite!

Tags: Appetizers · Entertaining · Entree · Fish

4 responses so far ↓

  • Ivonne // Jun 9, 2006 at 12:14 pm

    Hi Geneve,

    It’s funny because as soon as I saw the photo I was thinking, “Wow … Geneve loves her shellfish. A woman after my own heart!”

    As always, just lovely!

  • cath // Jun 10, 2006 at 8:33 pm

    Geneve, great post! One of my favorite things in the world to eat. I have to dig up the name of a Santa Monica restaurant for you. A friend took me once and I can still remember that sauce.

  • Julie // Jun 11, 2006 at 3:03 pm

    Hi Geneve

    I wonder if there is a feature that will allow users to print individual posts of yours. I’d love to print a post and take it to the grocery store to get the ingredients!


  • anneke mayan // Jun 24, 2006 at 7:35 pm

    Hi Geneve,
    My favorite Belgian meal which you can get in any Belgian bistro or ordinary or chic restaurant. I am so glad you mentioned the “Belgian frites”. They are the best.Loved the way you explained the “procedure” so easily. Will make it for you when you visit…