Moules Frites!

My friend Michael was in town. Last time he visited, we made those wonderful ribs, so we had to think of something equally special, and we settled on mussels.

Moules 4

I had always been afraid to make mussels. I had also assumed that they would be expensive, but when I read Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl, I learned that they are cheap and easy. Reichl’s book includes a recipe for moules marinière that I’ve made a couple times. I have added celery here, because that’s how I had it at Léon de Bruxelles, and it’s tasty.

Houseboy’s Mussels from Brussels, Serves 8


6 pounds mussels, rinsed and bearded *see note
2/3 cup dry white wine
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
3 celery stalks
black pepper
1 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped


Put the mussels, wine, onion, garlic and celery in a large stock pot over medium-high heat, covered. Shake the pot occasionally and cook until the mussels all open, then for another minute. This should just take a few minutes total.

Sprinkle them with the pepper and parsley, and discard any mussels that did not open. Next, portion them out among your guests, pouring the cooking juices over each portion at the end.

*Note: This was the one part of the process that scared me a little. Mussels have beards?! Most farmed mussels do not, or they have tiny beards. It’s just a little tuft that comes out of the shell. Grab it firmly and yank it out. No big whoop. If any of the mussels you buy are open, give them a firm tap and let them sit for a minute. If they don’t close, discard.

Serve with baguette or, as we chose to do, frites:

Moules 5

Nothing fancy, just the frozen kind from the supermarket, but rather than bake them, we fried them in vegetable oil. It makes a huge difference, plenty of fat. Don’t be stingy with the salt either!

You can see that this made for an elegant, engaging meal—as fun to eat as it was delicious.

MoulesCo copy


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3 Responses to “Moules Frites!”

  1. Celia Says:

    Another mouthwatering account from Houseboy.

    I made mussels a few weeks ago, and was likewise surprised by their reasonable pricing and ease of preparation. I, however, used a Julia Child recipe (having just seen Julie & Julia), which was about the same but with 6 tablespoons of butter.

    Anyway, I have a comment re: beard. Is that one of those words where “to beard” means the same thing as “to debeard”?

    • Houseboy Says:

      Now that you mention it, I think the Ruth Reichl recipe had butter as well. Though we got on without it, butter makes everything better, so I should remember to include it next time.

      As for beard/debeard, I have read both in recipes, but Merriam-Webster only has debeard. Hmmmmm.

  2. julixdoc Says:

    House boy! I’d like a freakin’ post. I have no good food here in SF. hahah

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