The Kingdom of Belgium is a unique Western European country bordered by France, The Netherlands, Germany, and Luxembourg. Belgium is made up of Dutch and French speaking people, with a small German speaking minority. Due to it’s location it is a unique mix of culture and languages.
This small country has given art, culture, beer, chocolate, waffles, and french fries to the world —yes, that’s right french fries are not French, they are said to have originated in Belgium. Fries (or frites as they are called) are so important to their cuisine that they are present in the national dishes and a very popular snack of french fries served with mayonnaise or other dipping sauces.
On this 5th edition of Earth Eats we will be frying up some Belgium frites (fries) to go with the national dish: moules-frites or mussels and french fries. According to Expatica.com “About 30 million tons of moules frites are eaten every year in Belgium (that’s 3 kg a person), in a season…” I’m not ashamed to say that I can eat way more than that in a month. (haha) This dish is not only popular in Belgium but also in France. When we lived in Paris we used to go out for moule-frites just about every week, and I never got tired of it. This dish is one of my all-time favourite meals —I say that about many, but I really do mean it. This was my first time preparing the dish at home and I would do it over and over again.
The way these mussels are prepared is moules à la marinières, which means cooking them in white whine, shallots, butter, and parsley. The process is quite simple and even if you’ve never cooked mussels before you’ll feel confident doing so.
Let’s get cooking!
- 2 kilos or 4.4 lbs of fresh mussels
- 20 g or 1.5 tablespoons of salted butter
- 2 shallots, finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
- 1 stick of celery, cut in half
- 250 ml or 1 cup of a dry white wine
- half a small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, only the leaves and roughly chopped
- a batch of frozen french fries for two people
- sliced baguette or crusty bread of choice, mustard (for bread) and green salad (optional)
- Make sure that the mussels are thoroughly cleaned to remove any sand or dirt. Additionally remove the stringy parts that may be on some of the mussels. Rinse under cold water. If you are unsure about the freshness of the mussels make sure to consult with your fish monger before purchasing. Make sure to discard any damaged or cracked mussels.
- In a large and deep pan, melt the butter. Once melted add the shallots and sauté until soft, add the garlic and cook for two minutes, then add the celery and cook for another two minutes. Next gently place the cleaned mussels inside the pan and pour the wine over them. Set the heat to medium, cover the pot and cook the mussels for 10 minutes. Checking and stirring the pot now and then. While you’re waiting you may want to fry the french fries. You’ll know the mussels are cooked when they open.
- 3. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT: ALL MUSSELS THAT HAVE NOT OPENED NEED TO BE DISCARDED. IT IS NOT SAFE TO EAT THOSE. YOU’LL ALSO WANT TO REMOVE ANY THAT ARE CRACKED.
- Serve with french fries, a crusty baguette, a green salad and a glass of wine if desired.
If you serve the green salad start with that then serve the mussels and french fries.To eat the mussels you can either use a fork to get them out of the shell. But my French friends taught me a really fun and easier way of eating moules. You’ll need to eat one with the fork, then save the shell making sure both sides stay together. What you want to do is use the shell like pinchers to pinch off the next mussels from it’s shell. Once I learned this technique I was able to eat my mussels much faster. Lol! So you eat some mussels, munch on french fries, dip the baguette into the sauce, and sip on your glass of wine. It’s a delicious and fun meal. Hope you give it a try soon!
Don’t forget to check the previous instalments of the Earth Eats series.