Moules frites: A Classic Of French Cuisine

For gourmets of specialities from the Atlantic, Brittany is a veritable Eldorado. Unusual types of fish such as rasscasse, mullet and sea bass or seafood such as scallops, oysters and sea spiders can be found fresh in the fishmongers’ displays at many markets in Brittany. Or deliciously prepared in selected restaurants.

More common than creations with these exotic seafood is a dish that is as simple as it is tasty: moules frites. Mussels with fried potatoes is considered the national dish of Belgium and is also very popular in northern France. In a survey, the French even named moules frites as one of their most popular dishes.

Preparing Moules Frites

Perhaps one of the reasons why moules frites are so popular is because the ingredients for moules frites are so cheap and the dish is so quick and easy to prepare. The quick recipe: Wash 1 kg of mussels for 2 people several times. Chop 2 – 3 medium onions and some garlic and cook in a large pot with melted butter until soft. Then add white wine or stock to the onions until the pot is about a third full of liquid. Then add the mussels to the pot and cook for about 5 minutes. The mussels will open during this time and the orange flesh will show. At the same time, prepare the frites. The moules frites are ready!

There are several variations for the broth. For example, the liquid can be enriched with various herbs, such as parsley, sage or thyme; in exotic variations, curry, turmeric or coconut milk are also used. More common, however, is the addition of cream. Serve the moules in a bowl with the broth. Moules frites are best served with a glass of dry white wine or cider.

How To Enjoy Moules Frites

Eating a bowl of moules frites is a special event. The bowl of mussels is always accompanied by cutlery. But a brief observation of a moules frites eater shows how it can be done more practically and elegantly. You simply need an opened, empty mussel. The empty mussel can be used excellently as tongs to extract the delicious orange flesh of another black “moules”. The full mussel may need to be bent open a little further, then the meat is grabbed with the outer edge of the “tongs” and turned briefly until it can be removed. In this way, the eater takes on one mussel after the other until, at the end, one can look with satisfaction at a mountain of opened mussels.

Buying Mussels

It is important to sort out spoiled mussels when buying and after cooking. There is a danger of poisoning if mussels are opened or damaged, which can be recognised immediately by the unpleasant smell. Moreover, mussels that remain closed even after cooking are also inedible.

Image: Comité Régional du Tourisme de Bretagne | © Jean-Patrick Gratien