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QUICK FIX

Mussel-Bound

October 28, 1998|MAY PARICH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

I first learned about moules frites from a friend who spent a year in Paris. Several times a week, she and her friends would eat the dish, steamed mussels and French fries, at bistros or outdoor cafes. They ate it so much that they started thinking of it as French fast food. But this is fast food that is simple, intensely flavorful and a little romantic.

Although this meal is very easy to prepare, there are two tricks to making it special. One is to find fresh, live mussels, preferably blacked-shelled ones, not the larger green New Zealand mussels, which typically are not eaten in Paris. The other is to use a good wine. You need only a cup for steaming the mussels, and you can drink the rest with dinner.

Menu (30 MINUTES OR LESS)

Steamed Mussels and Fried Potatoes (Moules Frites) With Garlic Mayonnaise

STEAMED MUSSELS

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped shallots

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

1 tablespoon chopped thyme

1 cup dry white wine

Salt, pepper

3 pounds live mussels, cleaned and debearded

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Heat olive oil over medium heat in large, shallow pot. Add shallots and garlic and cook until shallots start to turn translucent, about 3 minutes.

Add thyme, wine and salt and pepper to taste, then bring to a simmer.

Add mussels, cover pot and steam until mussels open, about 3 minutes. Remove only mussels that have opened. Let closed mussels cook a little longer. Discard mussels that don't open after 5 minutes.

Spoon mussels and liquid into 4 bowls and sprinkle with parsley.

4 servings. Each serving:

141 calories; 201 mg sodium; 12 mg cholesterol; 8 grams fat; 4 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams protein; 0.06 gram fiber.

FRIED POTATOES (Frites)

1 pound (about 2) baking potatoes, scrubbed and dried

Oil

Salt

Serve the fries with Garlic Mayonnaise for dipping.

Cut potatoes into thin sticks about 3 inches long.

Heat about 3 inches oil in large pot over medium heat until temperature reaches 275 degrees, about 5 minutes. Add potatoes and fry until cooked through but still pale, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep potatoes from sticking together.

Increase heat until oil is about 375 degrees and continue frying potatoes until golden brown, about 5 more. Remove and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt to taste.

4 servings. Each serving:

210 calories; 1,186 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 14 grams fat; 20 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams protein; 0.48 gram fiber.

GARLIC MAYONNAISE (Aioli)

1 clove garlic

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

Smash garlic clove into puree. Stir garlic puree into mayonnaise and season with pepper.

About 1/2 cup. Each tablespoon:

58 calories; 105 mg sodium; 4 mg cholesterol; 5 grams fat; 4 grams carbohydrates; 0 protein; 0.01 gram fiber.

COUNTDOWN

30 minutes before: Clean and debeard mussels.

25 minutes before: Chop herbs, garlic and shallots.

20 minutes before: Begin heating oil for frying potatoes. Cut potatoes.

15 minutes before: Prepare Garlic Mayonnaise.

12 minutes before: Begin steaming mussels.

11 minutes before: Begin frying potatoes.

INGREDIENTS

Shopping List

3 pounds mussels

1 bunch fresh thyme

1 bunch parsley

1 bottle white wine

1 pound russet potatoes

Staples

Mayonnaise

Garlic

Shallots

Extra-virgin olive oil

Vegetable oil

Salt, pepper

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CHEF'S TIPS

Most mussels come with a stringy "beard." The mussel uses this "byssus" to attach itself to whatever it is growing on. To de-bearding a mussel, simply pull on the beard to separate it from the inside of the shell. Pull fairly hard; mussels don't give up their beards easily. And don't de-beard a mussel until just before it is to be cooked. It can kill it too early and ruin the flavor.

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