Saturday, November 10, 2012

Mon Petit Moule Frite

The Paris Brasserie: a haven for some of my most favorite European delights.

Probably one of my most favorite dishes in the world is one that evokes so many good memories... and that is Moules Frites.

Belgian derived, but oh-so French, this dish evokes fond memories 
of my days in Paris, as a student at the Sorbonne and The American University of Paris. 
 Europe to me meant cafes with close friends, relaxing and watching life slowly go by, and at times enjoying a ice cold pint of beer and a plate of Moules Frites.
And even to this day, when I am sitting at a NYC brasserie or bringing this dish straight to my kitchen, there is nothing in the world that can bring 
the Paris memories flooding back better.

Hanne, Katie & I (left); Paris, 2002.  Best friends taking a (long) break from our French studies...
By far one of the best brasseries I frequented when living in the 6th Arrondisement was (what used to be) a quaint cafe called Le Comptoir du Relais.  
Near Saint Germain des Pres and a neighborhood I called home, it was situated in a beautiful square called the Carrefour de l'Odeon.  The area was buzzing with students and locals.  The waiters knew you by name and they served you the best moules frites with Muscadet, escargot & fois gras, and to finish off the meal...a cafe creme of course
And then there was this one really handsome French waiter, Jean-Luc (sigh)... but we probably should save those scandalous details for another post :) 
But these days, my coveted place is a secret no more, Sadly I've been told there is a 
6 month waiting list for dinner reservationsStill worth the wait.

Le Comptoir du Relais is close to numerous cinemas around the Odeon Theatre.
As a result, this 1950's bar is brimming with film fans, romantic couples and literary types debating some movie or another while sipping on a glass of something.  
It's cultural, artsy, and to me it is the epitome of the Left Bank.

Le Comptoir du Relais
And now that I've gotten completely off topic (Paris will do that to me).

 OK, The mussels.  When in NYC, my top recommendation for the best moules frites one can ever imagine is Bistro Cassis, right in my neighborhood on the Upper West Side.    
Coincidentally, this restaurant is close by to Lincoln Center theatres and is brimming with film fans, romantic couples, musicians and literary types...see a habit forming here?
Originally I judged this book by it's cover as the look from the outside looks tres faux french and is situated next to all the other tourist traps in the area.
Surprisingly however...
it delivers some of the most authentic French fare that is the closest I've come
 to Paris in NY in quite a while.
My favorite moules they serve are the Moules à la Creme Pernod (with Anise Cream)!!! 
This is TO DIE FOR.  Really.  It is that good.
And the Soup à l'Oignon is also an absolute perfection!

Bistro Cassis, Columbus Ave & W. 70th St.  Not Paris, but close.

Bistro Cassis, a little bit of Paris in NYC

And when I don't feel like dining out (or am just simply broke) 
and want to bring this classic 
& oh-so cheap dish right to my kitchen, it is this easy and flawless everytime...

MY very own Moules Frites à chez moi
Moules à la Marinière et Frites
(Mussels in a White Wine cream sauce and Twice-Baked Crispy Fries)

Recipe serves 2. 

2 lbs. fresh caught Mussels; rinsed, scrubbed & de-bearded
1/2 cup of light, dry white wine
1/2 cup minced shallots
3 tbsp fresh parsley
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
Grapeseed oil or extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
salt & pepper to taste
2 tbsp minced garlic
2 starchy medium Idaho potatoes
1/2 tbsp Old Bay seasoning 

Preparation & Cooking instructions:
My Twice-Baked Crispy Frites
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees with rack placed in top 3rd of oven.
2. Peel the Potatoes lengthwise, leaving a patch of skin on each end of the potatoes.
3. Cut each potato into very thin fries lengthwise (no more than 1/4" thick).  The thinner they are the crispier they will turn out.
4.  In a large bowl, dress the fries very lightly with oil and season with salt & pepper. Arrange fries in single layer on a baking sheet - do not overcrowd the fries.  Place fries in oven and roast 30 minutes. Remove the fries, increase the heat to 425 degrees.  Toss fries in the bowl again with old bay seasoning and a pinch of chopped parsley.  Return fries to the oven and bake an additional 15-20 minutes until very crispy and brown on the edges.

My Moules à la Marinière
1. In an enamel kettle or large pot, heat butter and a touch of oil on medium-high heat.  Saute the shallots and garlic for 3 minutes until golden and softening.  

2. Pour in white wine and heavy cream, stir, bringing ingredients to a boil.  Boil for 3 minutes to evaporate alcohol and reduce volume slightly. 
3. Add mussels to the pot, stir and cover tightly with a lid, boiling quickly over high heat.  
4. Frequently shake the pot in an upwards motion, keeping the lid shut tight, to incorporate the mussels with the sauce.  In about 5 minutes the mussel shells will open and the mussels will be fully cooked. Discard any mussels that have not opened.
5.  Plate the mussels in a deep soup dish or bowl.  Allow the cooking liquid to settle for a moment and ladle the liquid over the mussels.
6. Sprinkle the mussels and fries with parsley and serve immediately.

*Suggestion: serve with a chilled Muscadet white or a Stella Artois and be prepared for a true Parisian (alright....Belgian) experience.


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