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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!



eat well & drink beerHappy Thursday all! Eat well & drink beer!

P.S. I’ve been working on some patterns which will soon be screen printed on tea towels and other goodies. Here’s a sneak peek. Be on the lookout!

eat pattern

Eat Pattern

This cake rocks my socks. I found the recipe for Guinness Chocolate Cake over at Design*Sponge when I was searching for a cake to make for my sweetie’s birthday. The oddity of having Guinness as a main ingredient sold me on this particular recipe, but we were in for a surprise. This cake is AMAZING! It is perfectly moist and has a deep chocolatey flavor. Not to mention, the icing is basically a cheese cake. Needless to say, this cake is not for the faint of heart.

I made this cake again when I was home for the holidays and it went over well with the whole family. My mom was a little dubious when I cracked a can of Guinness while mixing the batter, but she was definitely won over in the end.  This cake has firmly cemented itself as my all time favorite dessert.

For those of you who find making a cake from scratch intimidating, I assure you this is (fairly) painless. You’re cooking with Guinness! Just crack one open for yourself after you give one to the cake.  I made this in my sparsely stocked kitchen and had to improvise on several steps. For one, I don’t have a mixer so I had to put a little extra love/elbow grease into combining the ingredients. If you don’t have a sifter, you can use two spoons to toss the flour (like a salad) in order to loosen and aerate it. To whip the cream, two forks and some love will do the trick. You can tag team this effort, whipping cream by hand is a bit of a workout. (But seriously, this cake is rich. You may as well get a little exercise  before you indulge.) My point is, you can do it! It will be well worth your effort. Enjoy!

Jump on over to Design*Sponge for the full recipe.

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