Home Cooking 4

Moules frites report and question

Carb Lover | Sep 12, 2005 03:37 PM

I have become hopelessly addicted to black mussels ever since I have been able to procure fresh ones weekly from my farmer's market. The Italian guys know what I'm after when they see me saunter up to their stall. I think mussels are my favorite food right now...

Their reward-to-effort ratio is very high since they take such little time to prep, don't take many additional ingredients, and are done in about 10 min. The remaining wine used for cooking can be moved to the table to sip w/ dinner. Break up some crusty bread to sop up the tangy, creamy broth and I can't think of a more perfect and simple meal...

Oh wait, homemade french fries/frites would make this more perfect. Yes, it does take a little more time (and oil), but homemade bistro-style frites will soothe the soul for a Sun. and carry you through the week to come. Timing is certainly a factor here, as it can be a challenge to get both the moules and the frites done around the same time so that both are hot and steamy. It's all about mise en place, or "meez" as Tony Bourdain would say...

I twice-fried my skin-on, russet frites using the Bouchon method (320F for 5-6 min.; 375F for 3-4 min.), although I just had about 2 in. of canola oil in my wok. After frying the first time, I laid frites on paper towel to rest while the oil temp. was raised and I began the mussels (which had already been cleaned and debearded). I sauteed some thinly-sliced fennel in a pat of butter til transluscent. Threw in some diced tomato, saffron threads, and seasoned w/ pepper. Sauteed for a min. Turned heat up and dumped in about almost half a bottle of dry white wine (white rioja). After it reached boil, carefully layered in mussels, and covered w/ lid. Reduced heat a touch. Got serving bowls ready. Warming the bowls might be a good idea, but I'm lazy about this.

At this point, came back to the frites. Made sure oil was around target temp. of 375F and finished frying in two batches. Set on rack to drain and salted. Checked on mussels and removed those that had opened fully. Let others finish. After all mussels were removed to serving bowls, finished broth w/ a little heavy cream and chives. Tasted and adjusted seasoning. Ladled broth into bowls and piled frites on top (for me, but husband prefers on side). Didn't serve frites w/ additional dipping sauce, but mayo or aioli would have been nice.

What can I say? This is the kind of meal that makes you wonder why anyone wouldn't love mussels or why we waste our $ on eating out. BTW, ever since I've been choosing my own mussels (instead of having the vendors do it for me) by smelling, feeling weight, and inspecting shells of EACH one, I haven't had a problem w/ unopened "dead" ones. The medium-sized ones taste the best to me.

Here's my quick question: I got overzealous and cut too many potatoes for frying (hey, the French mandoline is good for something!). Left them soaking in water and covered, and they looked just as perky this AM. Can I leave them soaked in water for another day or two, assuming I change the water daily?

Image: http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y45/...

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