Ah yes. Moules Frites, aka mussels with fries. It is so simple and yet so amazing. Making them from scratch like this is fifty times better than buying the frozen already in sauce, and this sauce uses the fennel, parsley, and tomatoes we got in the veg box.
The first time I had moules frites was while I was visiting Bath, UK. They served them outside on this tiny, skinny patio next to the river (as you can see on my very first blog post). It was truly lovely and now you and I can recreate them at home for a quick meal that’s sure to impress. It even impressed my parents!
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup thinly sliced fennel
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon white wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup small dice tomato concasse, about 3 whole tomatoes (directions below)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 pounds mussels, cleaned and de-bearded (the fishmonger can do this for you)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
To make the tomato concasse:
Tomato concasse is basically just peeled and de-seeded tomatoes, chopped to a specific size dice (for this recipe, small). Fill a pot deep enough to cover the entire tomato with water and bring to a boil. On each tomato, remove the hard part where the stem attached with a paring knife in a cone shape. Turn the tomato over and mark an X into the skin, about 1 inch long with each stroke.
Parboil in the pot for 1 minute so it makes it easier to remove the skins. Remove using a slotted spoon onto a plate to cool enough to where you can handle them. Once cooled enough, remove skins using your fingers and discard.
Cut each tomato in half and remove the seeds using the paring knife or a spoon. I found the knife worked better for me.
Chop tomatoes into small dice.
For the mussels:
Heat a very large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add olive oil. Once oil is hot, add fennel and saute until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. To slice the fennel: cut whole bulb in half and remove franz (the leafy tree looking parts on the top). Remove the core from each half, it is easily visible as the triangle in the center on the bottom. Slice finely.
Add onions, saute, stirring often, for about 1 minute. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Don’t let them burn!
Turn up the heat to medium-high and deglaze the pan with 1 cup white wine. Reduce until nearly evaporated, about 3 minutes. Add the tomato paste, tomato concasse, and salt and bring to a simmer. The face in the pot was totally unintentional 🙂
Add mussels and 1 tablespoon white wine to pot and cover with a lid. Steam mussels until they just begin to open, about 5 minutes. Remove lid, add basil and parsley and stir the mussels. Serve in large bowls with skinny fries on the side…I suggest shoestrings deep fried in vegetable oil until golden brown. Note: If any mussels haven’t opened in the cooking process, don’t eat; just throw away.