Mussels and Fries

While I was in Philadelphia over the holidays, I had dinner at a charming pub called Monk’s Cafe that served “Belgium’s national dish” – pots of mussels in savory sauce with fries. The combination of flavors, complemented by a good beer, was inspired.  I had many tasty bites while I was visiting Philly, but I kept thinking about this dish.

Since coming back to Berkeley, I happened upon a recipe for mussels that sounded very similar to dish I had at Monks. Still drooling at the memory of that dinner in Philly, I decided to try it out. I was a little nervous about cooking mussels for the first time, but this dish was surprisingly easy. I’m also happy to report that it’s just a good at as the mussels I had in Philadelphia. I’m generally not a fan of seafood but this recipe is a true exception.

The fries I made to accompany the mussels are probably the easiest at-home fries that you can possibly make. They take a little longer than traditional deep-fried potatoes, but they’re much less messy and a lot healthier.  The trick with these baked fries is the two-step baking process, which replicates the two-step frying process of truly delicious deep-fried fries. The fries are baked at a high temperature to cook and brown them, and then baked for another period at a lower temperature to dry them out because nobody likes soggy fries.

You’ll want the fries and the mussels to finish at the same time. To time everything perfectly, prep everything you’ll need to cook the mussels and when you have about 15 minutes left on the fries, start the pot of mussels.

Recipes from The Improvisational Cook by Sally Schneider

Baked Fries:

  • 2-3 large baking potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt to taste

Baked Fries

Savory Mussel Stew:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 shallots
  • pinch of hot pepper flakes
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 3 1/2 pounds mussels, scrubbed
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 Tbs. butter

Pot of Mussels

I found it quite good to pull the mussels out of the shell and let them soak in the broth. Don’t forget to enjoy this meal with good beer!