MOULES FRITES (mussels steamed in lager with fries, for four as an appetizer, two as a main course)
“Belgium brings out the worst in the French. If you think Frenchmen are anti-American, you should hear them sneer at their francophone neighbors. Baudelaire raised Belge-baiting to a high literary level. But non-poets love to substitute Belge for bete, when they want to say that something is dumb (c’est Belge)….. And then there are the Belgian jokes. Why are there so many frites on the ground on Brussels? Whenever one Belgian asks another the time ….. (the speaker now consults his watch, inevitably rotating his wrist and spilling an imaginary paper cone of French fries).” Raymond Sokolov, The Cook’s Canon
½ stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
1 medium onion, chopped (1 cup)
2 celery ribs, cut into ¼ inch dice (1 cup)
1 cup drained canned diced tomatoes (from a 14 to 15 ounce can)
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 cups lager such as Harp (16 ounces – pour beer slowly into measuring cup – do not measure foam)
2 pounds mussels (preferably cultivated), scrubbed well and beards removed
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons heavy cream
¼ cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
crusty bread to accompany
Belgian frites to accompany
- Heat butter in a wide 5 to 6 quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then cook onion, celery, tomatoes, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, salt and pepper, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften, about 4 minutes.
- Add beer and bring just to a boil. Add mussels and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until mussels open wide, 3 to 6 minutes, transferring them to a bowl as they open. (Discard any mussels that remain unopened after 6 minutes).
- Remove pot from the heat. Stir together mustard and cream in a small bowl, then add mixture along with parsley to hot broth and whisk until combined. Discard bay leaf. Serve sauce over mussels with crusty bread.