Ah oui…mussels and fries, moules frites as les sophisticates call ‘em. This classic combo just might be my dream meal. I nearly always order them if they’re on the menu, and, when inspired, I make them myself at home. You know why? Because it’s seriously simple to make delicious mussels (assuming you got a nice, fresh, living, breathing batch of these bivalves to work with). And if you get over to the Green Market this Saturday, then you too can pick up a bag of these briny black beauties from your neighborhood fishmonger, which is just what I did last weekend. Chop some herbs and vegetables, throw it all in a pot with some beer (nothing too fancy required) and in about 20 minutes you’ve cooked a really delightful (and very nearly gourmet) meal.

But what beer should I use? Here’s what the beer geeks are saying about which type of beer you should use for steaming mussels: read all about it and decide what sounds best to you.

At a Glance: If you’re concerned about seafood sustainability, mussels are an excellent choice. And when it comes to nutritional benefits, they’re quite high  in zinc—a great immunity booster (especially important this time of year when flu season is upon us). So what about those ‘taters? Potatoes are always getting a bad rap, but they’re super rich in potassium (great for hangovers!). Just try to eat them not in the fried form– or maybe just not  not every day.

So make some mussels.  Impress yo’self.


Beer-Steamed Mussels and Oven Fries
Makes enough for 2 people (i.e. date night!) 

Ingredients for the oven fries:
2 large baking potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch-thick matchsticks
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ tsp. Salt
Directions for the oven fries: Preheat the oven to 450°F. On a baking sheet drizzle olive oil over the potatoes, toss to coat, and sprinkle with salt. Put them in the hot oven and bake until golden and crisp, checking occasionally to make sure they don’t burn, about 30 minutes. Remove the fries with a spatula and season with salt, to taste.

Ingredients for the mussels:
2 lbs. fresh mussels*
1 (12-ounce) bottle of beer (a wit or blonde perhaps, nothing too hoppy or bitter…more notes here about choosing a beer)
1 medium onion, cut in half and thin sliced
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
½ tsp. fresh cracked black pepper
1 strip bacon, cooked until crisp, and chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon olive oil for sautéing onion and garlic
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
*NOTE: Store the mussels in a plastic bag, in a bowl of ice in the fridge until you’re ready to cook (advisably the same day you get them). Rinse the mussels well in cold water in a colander, and pull off the beards with a tweezer or scrape them off with a paring knife. Make sure that any opened mussels you tap a couple of times and if they do not close, they are BAD (dead). Throw those out.

Directions for the mussels:
1. In a large soup pot (large enough to hold all the mussels), heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, cooking until it starts to become translucent. Add garlic and sautée for another minute.
2. Add the butter, bacon, and beer to the pot and bring to a boil. Now add the mussels, cover with a lid, reduce heat to medium, and cook for 5-7 minutes or until the shells open up. Turn the heat off, sprinkle in the parsley, and stir well. It can be tempting to overcook the mussels, but you really just want them to open up, and then give them a few stirs in the broth.
3. Serve with oven fries and some crusty bread, make sure there’s a bowl handy for your empties (shells that is), and take some pride in what you’ve done. C’est magnifique.

Serving tip! Wanna look like a pro mussel eater? Use one of your empty mussel shells as tool with which to pluck the cooked mussels from their shells as you’re dining. Forks are for yankees afterall.

Illustration by Libby VanderPloeg


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