A very good friend of mine spent a couple of years in Belgium working for "the bank". Peter and I had the good fortune to visit him twice while he was there, and he introduced us to "Moules Frites", mussels with fries for those unfamiliar with the term. I remember very distinctly the three of us sitting outside at a cafe in Bruges, basking in the sun, sipping dry chablis and Belgian beer, wafting the incredible aromas rising from a very large bowl of steaming mussels. Isn't it wonderful that memories tied to aromas never fade but can be brought back on a moments notice with just one waft of a similar aroma.
Well I was feeling nostalgic for that memory so I thought I'd give it a hand with a recipe I found in an article on Belgian food in May's bon appétit (it was an especially good issue). "Belgians use beer as an ingredient in the same way that people from Burgundy use wine" according to Mathieu Palombino a Belgian-born chef interviewed for the article "The Quest for the Holy Ale". Peter was able to find a Belgian-style wheat beer, I found the remaining ingredients, and we were "off to the races". Try these, they are really good.
3/4 Cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tablespoons olive oil
3/4 Cup chopped Italian Parsley
1/4 Cup chopped fresh chives
1/4 Cup chopped fresh tarragon
1/4 Cup chopped fresh chervil (optional)
2/3 Cup creme fraîche
3 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon whole grain Dijon mustard
3 Tablespoons butter
4 Large garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons Chopped fresh thyme
5 Pounds mussels, scrubbed, de-bearded
3 Cups diced seeded tomatoes (about 4 large)
1 Cup chopped green onions (about 4)
1 12-ounce bottle Belgian white beer (such as Hoegaarden)
- Mix parsley, chives, tarragon and chervil, if desired, in a small bowl.
- Whisk together creme fraîche and both mustards in another small bowl to blend; set aside.
- Melt butter in an extra-large pot with a lid over high heat.
- Add garlic and thyme; stir for 1 minute.
- Add mussels, tomatoes, and green onions. Pour beer over, then add the creme fraiche mixture; sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper. Cover tightly with lid and cook until steam appears, about 3 minutes.
- Add half of the fresh herb mixture and stir until the mussels and herbs are gently mixed. Cover tightly with lid again and cook until the mussels open, 4-5 minutes (discard any mussels that do not open).
- Using a slotted spoon, divide the mussels among 6 bowls.
- Season mussel juices lightly with salt and pepper, then pour juices over each serving.
- Sprinkle each serving with the remaining herbs and serve with lots of crusty bread, or with the Parmesan Croutons, described below.
Don't forget to salt the sauce; it's an important step; and if you can, buy PEI (Prince Edward Island) mussels, we think they are the best.
4 large slices of country-style bread, crusts removed, bread cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1/3 Cup Parmesan cheese
2 Tablespoons of olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Combine bread cubes, Parmesan and oil in a medium bowl; sprinkle with salt and toss to coat.
- Spread bread cubes evenly on a rimmed baking sheet.
- Bake until the bread cubes are crisp and golden around the edges, about 15 minutes.
- Remove from oven and cool.
THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES!