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Aug 4, 2009 10:00 PM

Moules, frites, Freud

It would be polite for me to say my dad and I don't see eye to eye. Even without my resilient grudges regarding forced t-ball participation or his clamoring for me to stop being such a foppish pansy, our evenings would still be a twisted hybrid of Hardball and Sally Jessy.

The man is all blood pressure and no taste buds when it comes to food. He is deathly afraid of carbohydrates and will tear through a Costco fire pail of mixed nuts or cafeteria tray of shitty cheddar as a 5 pm snack. The last thing I saw him eat was a sleeve of Ritz crackers topped with butter, cream cheese, cheddar cheese, a shake of table salt and blueberry jam. I typically don't knock things until I try them, but I could smell this one. Chances are he couldn't.

My mind was therefore blown when I learned he liked mussels. They're pretty in your face as far as shellfish goes, but there's still a lot of nuance there to appreciate, and I wonder if it's one of the last things he can taste. Somewhere in that argumentative, aged, cracked tongue of his there yet may be life.

I'd like to steam pop some mussels in beer and make him some fries. The mussels I think I can handle, but I'd appreciate any tips. The fries are a bit trickier, I've never done them to satisfaction. I'm gunning for thin cut, skin on, and easy.

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  1. Mussels are a lot simpler to make than you might think- which always kills me when I get them in a restaurant. Just make sure to pick out any that are tightly closed, or have broken shells. Make a good broth with lots of good flavors-Ive definitely done beer broth-with onions and herbs- yummy- and then I usually just steam them in the broth til the shells open. I love mussels-I tend to make them pretty frequently.
    Ive recently had some good experience with fries- by slicing them, par boiling, and then baking them in the oven (400 degrees) after tossing them in some olive oil and herbs. The result was really crunchy fries-that were super easy and really delicious.

    Good luck- whatever you do-I hope its a great dinner for you both!

    2 Replies
    1. re: fmcoxe6188

      Did you mean to say "pick out any that are NOT tightly closed"

      1. re: Old Spice

        Ha-you got it! Thats what I get for staying up to watch a 13 inning baseball game- tired fingers :-) Sorry about that- absolutely pick out any that are NOT tightly closed, or that have broken shells etc. And on the reverse end-any that do not open during cooking also shouldn't be eaten :-)

    2. One tip for cooking mussels no matter what recipe you use. After the mussels have opened, remove them with a spider to another bowl and cover to keep them warm. Boil the liquid/sauce remaining in the pot for a couple of minutes until it's reduced somewhat. This really helps to concentrate the essence of the mussels in the sauce.

      1 Reply
      1. re: JoanN

        Agreed. And a little enrichment with some butter at the last minute makes a tremendous sauce.

      2. I like to steam them in beer with a couple of pieces of ginger and maybe green onion. I also add a bit of butter at the end. This is really good with toasty bread, instead of frites. Easier, too.

        1. If you're gonna do moules-frites, I'd urge you to do the fries right. There's a thread here somewhere on this topic, but the short version is that the potatoes, however cut, should be fried twice: once just until they're opaque and a pale yellow, then again to a golden brown. I think the respective oil temperatures are 350º and 375º. Since my last ones were done in one of those Frybaby things I just winged it with no thermometer and they came out fine. Given that your dad seems to have some masculinity-image issues, I'm not sure boiled and baked "fries" would be the way to go...

          1. The New Zealand green mussels are also superb. A 2lb. box is about $7 and they are huge, clean and sweet. I brush lightly with oil and do them in the broiler. Some melted butter with lemon on the side may be all that you need.