It was so long time ago that I don't exactly remember at which Léon de Bruxelles restaurant, a restaurant chain specialized in mussels, in Paris I had a potful of mussels for the first time in my life. Confession: even though I had loved all kinds of seafood since I was a kid, I had never tried a mussel before my first visit to Léon de Bruxelles over a decade ago. And you may guess by now, I fell in love with mussels right then and there.
Let's say it was love at first taste, not at first sight~ Since then I order moules-frîtes, or mussels with French fries,wherever available. It's originated from Belgium, but moules frîtes are one of the most popular food in France as well. You can find it on the menu quite often at any restaurant, especially in Paris and île-de-France region. I like all different kind of mussel sauces, e.g. Italian style classic tomato sauce, bold blue cheese sauce, creamy cream sauce, and of course, plain yet elegant sauce marinière, or white wine sauce in other words. As I recommended moules frîtes as one of the must-eat foods in France last year, moules frîtes actually are one of my favorite foods in the world. You can see my post about all the must-eat foods in France here~
It is true that I can eat mussels about anywhere, but! I do have my favorite place to have a big pot of mussels with freshly fried potato strips. It's not a big city such as Paris or Brussels. Probably you wouldn't guess it easily. It actually is Bruges, West Flanders in Belgium. If you haven't been in Belgium, I strongly recommend this little beautiful town in Central Europe. The Market square or Markt is one of the most charming plaza, if not the most, in the world. You will love it. A terrace of the restaurants in the square is a perfect place to enjoy a big pot of mussels with sauce of your choice.
November is such a nice month in the middle of the season, to eat mussels. As I happened to have a bottle of dry white wine in my kitchen cabinet, I made a pot of moules marinières. Here goes the recipe:
3-4lbs (or 1.3 - 1.7Kg) mussels
1/2 cup dry white wine, such as chardonnay
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1-2 teaspoons garlic, chopped
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs fresh thyme
5-6+ sprigs of fresh flat leaf parsley
Accompaniments: French fries
1. Wash the mussels under cold running water in a sink, removing any beards and barnacles.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a high heat, then add the onion and garlic. Stir for 1 minute.
3. Add the wine and bring to a boil.
4. Add the mussels, cover with a lid and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the mussels open. As you know, you are not eating any mussels that are not opened.
5. Add as much as parsley you want and stir well. No seasoning is required as the mussels will release a little salt water when they open.
6. Serve the mussels in a serving dish or bowls.
Prepare a nice loaf of good-quality French bread to dip in the juices. I know I ended up, as usual, with a little too much sauce, but it's so worth and good.
We should have had white wine, but as we had other food as well, we had a jug of red wine! I love this humble jug! A jug of wine satisfies our daily needs, doesn't it? :)
But, of course, a glass of Belgian beer along with mussels is not a bad idea either. :)
Mussels lunch/dinner brings a happy nostalgia for France and Europe.
I always enjoy mussels along with my fond memories :)
How about you? What is the food that recalls your old memories?
Moules Marinières - Mussels with White Wine Sauce