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Moules Frites, Relay Style!











Last weekend, as my husband (who is still pondering his username…right now it’s between “buns of steel”, “sticky buns” and “honey buns”) was eating takeout pizza for the second night in a row when we decided we were really sucking at cooking at home.  We both love to cook, but it’s tough to do after work…and the gym (hopefully!)…and feeding/loving/cleaning/rocking Foodie Baby (FB).  Usually, if we can plan meals ahead of time, and I go to the grocery store at the beginning of the week, we do a great job of cooking.  Lately, we’ve been walking to the grocery store after work and getting enough food for that night’s meal (plus snacks for the walk home) or just buying coconut water (our new obsession) and ordering takeout.  But NOT this week!  We have a menu planned…at least until we leave town on Thursday.  And we are having friends over for dinner on Wednesday.  So we’re committed…unless we order pizza.  (ha!)

Last night we made Moules Frites, complete with homemade french fries!  I started prepping the meal while “honey buns” (using that name while referring to my husband makes me a little nauseous) played with FB outside.  Prep was pretty easy.  I chopped garlic, shallots and parsley for the mussels, cut the potatoes using the mandolin, and let the mussels soak in water.

Buy your mussels as fresh as possible.  I made a special trip to our “fishmonger” to purchase the mussels this afternoon.  They really do taste better fresh, and I feel like there’s less chance you will get some weird shellfish related food sickness if you buy from a fishmonger.  That may just be my paranoia talking.

The guy at the fish market told us to leave the bag of mussels open instead of tying it shut.  I think it’s so that the little dudes can breathe, but that’s kind of sad to think about so I decided it was to “air them out”, and that’s the story I’m sticking with.

Some people/recipes told us to brine the mussels prior to cooking them.  Last time we did, and this time we didn’t.  We just scrubbed the “beards” (ew) off of them and let them soak in water while we did the rest of the prep.  They were better than last time, but we also used a different broth recipe so I can’t say if the lack of brine had anything to do with it.

The guy at the fish market also threw in a few cockles because I said I’d never had them before.  Oh. My. Goodness.  They were AMAZING!  They were saltier than the mussels and much smaller.  They had a rich taste and I think they would be delicious in a pasta dish.  

I digress…I finished prepping the mussels and potatoes and began heating the oil to fry the potatoes.  I threw the potatoes in the oil for their initial fry.  (Did you know? The secret to deliciously crispy fries is to fry them twice!  More on that later.)

By then it was time for FB’s bath (this is where the relay comes into play) so TAG! Honey Buns (barf) took over the frying while bathed and pajamaed FB.  By the time he was asleep, HB (ok, I can live with that) had started the broth for the mussels and put the potatoes in for their second round of  fryin’.

TAG!  I took over the fries, added salt, plated them and set the table while HB finished the mussels.  We grabbed some crusty bread and Tah Dah!  A delicious dinner in less than 30 minutes.  We probably should have added a salad, but instead we added a glass of Fallia pinot noir.  Delish!

Moules Frites

The Mussels
Serves 2
  • 2  lb. mussels
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 6 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1-1/2 cups dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc or any other crisp, herbal white wine *
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Good-quality crusty bread, sliced or torn into pieces, for serving

Rinse the mussels well under cold water. Pick them over, pulling off any beards and discarding any mussels that are broken or gaping open.

In a large pot with a lid, heat the oil and butter over medium heat. Add the garlic, shallots, and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant and soft but not colored, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the mussels, wine, and half of the parsley. Increase the heat to high, and cover the pan. After 2 minutes, remove the lid and toss the mussels well with a large spoon. Cover the pot again and cook until the mussels have opened wide, another 3 to 4 minutes. Add the remaining parsley, give the mussels a final toss, and divide the mussels and the broth among bowls. Serve the bread alongside.

*We used a 2006 Merryvale Starmont because it was already open in the fridge.  Apparently there is no such thing as Merryvale Starmont anymore…it’s just Starmont now.  So this chardonnay was probably past its prime.  It worked just fine for the mussels.

The Frites

  • 3 potatoes, scrubbed (I used 2 last night and HB said I always “deprived” him of adequate potato supplies.  So make your guest happy and use 1.5 potatoes per person.
  • Canola oil for frying.
  • Coarse sea salt
  • Pepper
Pour oil into a 6-qt. Dutch oven to a depth of 2″, and heat over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer reads 375°. Add potatoes and cook until tender, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer fries to a rack set over a rimmed baking sheet; chill (I put them in the fridge while the oil heated up, but I’ve heard some people freeze them before refrying.)
Increase oil temperature to 385°. Working in batches, add chilled potatoes and cook until golden brown and crisp, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, return fries to rack; season with salt and pepper.

Red Salad for a Red State

One of our favorite salads from a local restaurant is the Blue Salad. You might think we eat it to make a political statement, but actually it is because of the blueberries, blue cheese and blueberry dressing! So, in my goal to promote a bipartisan food dialogue and in recognition that I live in a red state, I decided to invent a red salad. I thinly sliced some spicy radishes, diced some roasted red beets, thinly sliced some candy stripe beets, and added julienne of a small red pepper (which my husband identified as a similar spice to a jalapeno–apparently I left a few seeds in the salad..oops). To moderate the red and pay tribute to the environment, I made a pesto from the green leafy tops of carrots from the farmers market (adding equal parts olive oil and unsalted butter, then some pinenuts and parmesan cheese to taste) and piled in the center some sliced greens. I must say–the red salad was delicious! Clearly, I can reach across the colors of vegetables!

Manly Salad on Mother’s Day?

Lately I’ve been craving a Nicoise Salad like the one I ordered at Balthazar in New York City (or just “The City” if you don’t live in Oklahoma where that means Oklahoma City).  I decided to make one for dinner on Saturday night, but my husband decided he was hungry for a “man meal” which meant steak on his hasty bake and (what else?!) a baked potato.  He was also nonplussed at the idea of “wasting” charcoal to sear the Tuna I bought on the grill.

I decided we would make the Nicoise Salad for the Mother’s day picinic he (I) and my son (I) had planned to celebrate Mother’s day.  It was actually perfect because we made the mise en place Saturday night and actually assembled the salad at the park!

The bad news: I forgot plates so we had to eat out of the plastic containers holding different components of the salad.

The good news:  It was delicious!  And my husband was surprised by how filling it was…for a salad.  (“I didn’t know this salad had potatoes in it!”)  We also had a delicious bottle of 2000 Dom Perignon champagne, followed by a bottle of Benessere Muscat Canelli Frizzante which was WAY too sweet for our salad.

Here’s the recipe for the salad:

Elizabeth’s Mother’s Day Nicoise Salad

Serves 4

  • 4 6-ounce tuna steaks
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 dozen small purple or new potatoes
  • 1/3 pound green beans (or thin haricots verts), ends trimmed
  • Mixed Greens (Julia Child says butter lettuce, but I saw mixed greens at the farmer’s market)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved *see note
  • ½ cup Niçoise olives
  • 4 organic, large eggs, hard-boiled and cut into wedges
  • Dijon Vinaigrette

1. Preheat grill or grill-pan over medium-high heat. Rub tuna steaks with the olive oil, season generously with salt and pepper, and grill until cooked to your liking (some people like a mere sear on the outside, but feel free to cook it all the way through). Let the tuna cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting into ½-inch thick slices.  Or, put it in the fridge and serve it cold the next afternoon!)

2. Meanwhile, steam the potatoes for 20 minutes (or until cooked through) and the green beans for 7 minutes and let them cool. Cut the potatoes in half.

3. Arrange the lettuce on a big platter (or 2 small plastic containers if you forgot a plate). Lay the green beans, tomatoes and olives over the lettuce. Arrange the potatoes and eggs around the edge. Lay the slices of tuna on top. Drizzle with the vinaigrette.

Dijon Viniagrette

  • 2 parts olive oil
  • 1 part lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste