Moules-frites or moules et frites is a popular main dish of mussels and fries originating in Belgium. It is also popular in Jersey and France. The title of the dish is French, moules meaning mussels and frites fries, with the Dutch name for the dish meaning the same. It is considered the national dish of Belgium.
For Moules (Mussels)
- 1 kg fresh mussels in their shell
- 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 large Asian shallot, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 large cloves garlic , peeled and crushed
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chervil
- 50 ml olive oil
- 150 ml dry white wine
- 1 teaspoon Pernod, optional
- 2 tablespoons Crème fraîche, optional
For Frites (Chips)
- 2 large Bintje potatoes, peeled and cut into thin strips
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- oil, for deep frying
Procedure for Frites (Chips)
- Slice the potato into thin strips (2mm x 2mm) and rinse in salted water. Heat a deep fat fryer to 160°C (320°F).
- Place the frites/chips in and cook for 4-5 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
Procedure for Moules (Mussels)
- Tip the mussels into a large bowl of cold water, rinse and then drain well and pull away any 'beards'. (Fresh mussels look black and shiny and should only smell pleasantly of the deep sea - the vast majority should be tightly closed. Avoid any that smell 'fishy', look dry or are mostly open.)
- Place the chopped onion, shallot and garlic in a saucepan with the olive oil, gently sweat them over a low to medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until slightly soft.
- Add the chopped herbs, and pernod, if using, and mix with the onion mixture.
- Add the washed mussels to the pan and cover with dry white wine, bring slowly to the boil, then simmer gently whilst stirring. Continue until the mussels have opened - discard any that do not open, this can take between 2 to 5 minutes.
- Add the crème fraîche, if using, mixing through the cooked and opened mussels. Cover until the frites/chips are cooked.
- Whilst the mussels are cooking, turn up the deep fryer to 190°C (375°F) and salt the frites/chips. Add the frites/chips back to the oil for around 1 minute until golden and crispy.
- Serve the moules (mussels) in a deep bowl with the frites/chips on the side - providing plenty of napkins and a large bowl for the shells.
- To make the best frites/chips they should be washed in cold water and dried thoroughly before cooking.
The ways in which the mussels are cooked in the dish can vary significantly. Some variants commonly seen are:
- Moules marinière: Probably the most common and internationally recognisable recipe, Moules marinière includes white wine, shallots, parsley and butter to cook the mussels
- Moules natures: The mussels are steamed with celery, leeks and butter.
- Moules à la crème: Another common recipe, where the white wine stock is thickened with flour and cream.
- Moules parquées: A dish, probably originating in Brussels, of raw mussels on half a shell, served with a lemon-mustard sauce.
- Moules à la bière: In this recipe, the mussels are cooked in a sauce containing beer, instead of white wine.
- Moules à l’ail: The mussels are cooked with sliced or minced garlic.
Less commonly, fusion variants are seen in which the stock may be flavoured with non-local ingredients such as Espelette pepper or Pernod liquor. They can also be served with “Mosselsaus”, a sauce that is made with mayonnaise, mustard and vinegar. In Belgium, the moules used are generally farmed in nearby Zeeland in the Netherlands.
In various forms, frites or friet play an important role in Belgian culture and cuisine. Within Belgium, bintje potatoes are generally preferred as a basis to make fries because of their high starch content. They are generally double-fried (fried, left to cool and then fried again) in order to make them both moist in the core and crispy on the outside. As a part of this, they are often fried at a particularly high temperature (around 190 °C (374 °F) ).
As a dish, the moules and the frites are usually served on separate plates or dishes so that the fries do not become moist. Often, the moules are served in the same pan and stock used to cook them. A second pan or dish is generally also provided in which the mussels’ shells can be left once the mussels themselves have been eaten.