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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Moules frites (Belgian and French)

This is a national Belgian dish consisting of fresh mussels cooked in wine, butter, celery and leeks, accompanied by frites (French fries) and hand-made mayo. When I visited my friends Laura and Vlad in Belgium earlier this year (in June), almost every traditional restaurant displayed this dish on their menus outside the entrance :). I decided to make them at home and present them to you as the local specialty. 
I visited several cities in Belgium (Leuven, Brussels, Bruges), but where I loved it most was in Bruges. You can admire its famous market square and clock tower below:

By far the prettiest city, rightfully compared to a fairy-tale setting. I might be inclined towards it considering my older love for anything medieval (I will have a book - my phd, actually - be published on medieval festivals soon, yey!), but I still think the city is pretty enough to melt anyone.

If you happen to pass by Bruges, you must definitely try one of their boat rides. It takes you through the best parts of what the city has to show you and it's prettier than any boat ride you could imagine :). This is me (below), looking over a bridge towards the canals where the boats pass through (and some hour later we took a boat ride as well).

To see some scenery from Bruges, you could try watching In Bruges. It's a pretty funny movie :). To have a taste of Belgium try my mussels recipe, detailed below, after the jump.
Recipe source: Saveur

Two years ago: Baby making and no cooking :).

Ingredients (serves 2-3):
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 cup (250 ml) canola oil, plus more for frying
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 kg Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into sticks
  • 1 kg mussels, debearded and scrubbed (discard the ones which are open and don't close when you gently push their sides together)
  • 200 ml dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cubed
  • 3 ribs celery, finely chopped
  • 1-2 leeks, light green and white parts, sliced
  • 1/2 large yellow onion (or a small one), finely chopped

First of all prepare the fries. Pour some oil into a deep pan, heat it and then add the potatoes.

Cook them until tender, about 8 minutes. Remove them with a slotted spoon, allow them to cool, then fry them again for 4 minutes until crispy and browned.

Make the mayo. In a small bowl, put the mustard and the egg yolk:

Whisk them together, by hand, until even. Slowly add a little oil at a time, whisking continuously, until emulsified. Continue adding until all the oil is incorporated into a mayo (up to 250 ml). Add the lemon juice, vinegar, salt and pepper and mix well. Set aside.

Make the mussels. In a deep pan, add the butter, celery, leeks and yellow onion.

Let them cook on low heat, covered, about 2-3 minutes, so they can get a head start on softening. Add the wine and the mussels.

Season with salt and pepper and let them cook, covered. Stir occasionally until all mussels are opened, about 5 minutes. (Discard the ones that didn't open during cooking).

To serve, transfer the mussels and all the contents of the pan (veggies and juices) into a large bowl.

Serve next to the mayo and the fries. It's ok to eat with your hands :). It's done, dig in! :)


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