Moules Frites is a typical French and Belgian bistro meal. It can also be a fun family meal because everything can be eaten with your fingers! These are fresh mussels cooked in olive oil and white wine, served with garlic, thyme, and shallots, accompanied by fried potatoes. Common seasonings include garlic-flavored mayonnaise or whipped cream.
No wonder the Belgians have a keen interest in les moules. Mussels were once considered the meat of the poor, but now they are sometimes called "black gold" due to their high demand. Connoisseurs will tell you that the best mussels come from the Scheldt, a shallow river that connects western Belgium and the Netherlands.
Decades ago, mussels were already the staple food of many Belgian families, they gradually began to pair with French fries. The country’s famous potato chip shop was called Friteries. After the First World War, the popularity of Moules Frites and the number of these fries increased. Today, these French fries are replaced by restaurants and taverns. This dish is today considered one of Belgium's most popular social dishes, shared among a group of diners who share a pot of cooked mussels and a bowl of French fries.
1 kg fresh mussels
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 large shallot, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chervil
50mL of olive oil
150mL dry white wine, such as Muscadet
1 teaspoon Pernod (optional) or 1 teaspoon pastis (optional)
2 tablespoons creme fraiche (optional)
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into thin strips
salt and pepper to taste
oil for deep frying
Rinse the mussel with cold water. Scrub it and pull out its excess "hairs". Fresh mussels are black and shiny and it does not have a stinking smell.
In a pan, cook the chopped onion, shallots, and garlic with olive oil. Cook it for about 5 minutes in low-medium heat.
Add the chopped herbs, and Pernod or pastis if using and mix with the onion mixture.
Add the mussels to the pan and cover it with dry white wine. Bring it to a boil and stir it gently while it simmers. Continue until the mussels have opened - discard any that do not open, this can take between 2 to 5 minutes.
Add the creme fraiche if using, mixing through the cooked and opened mussels. Cover until the frites/chips are cooked.
Whilst the moules are cooking, turn up the deep fryer to 375°F/190°C and salt the frites/chips. Add the frites/chips back to the oil until fully cooked, golden and crispy.
Serve the moules in a deep bowl with the frites/chips on the side - providing plenty of napkins and a large bowl for the shells.