Moules et Frites

November 1, 2010

One of the questions I get most often is whether or not I make meat for Randy.  The answer is not.  I have never cooked meat or poultry.  Or lamb or pork or rabbit – do those count as meat or are they in another category?  Anyway, no I don’t make meat for him.  I wouldn’t know the first thing about cooking it.  I stopped eating meat when I was 16 and started cooking when I was around 22, so I have never cooked meat of any kind.  I also really like to taste my food – if for no other reason than to make sure it is properly seasoned – so I would not feel comfortable making something I won’t eat.

However, once in a great while, I make fish.  In the summer, Randy likes to grill salmon outside but occasionally I am moved to do something with it in the oven (but not moved enough to eat it).  I’ve made these crab cakes a number of times and even though I have never tasted them, I know they are great because people go absolutely crazy for them.  Theirs is always the first empty platter.

The non-vegetarian thing I make most often is mussels.  Why?  I don’t eat them.  But Randy loves them and they are, by far, one of the easiest and quickest meals I make.  I also make mussels because mussels are moules in French and you can’t have moules without frites.

French fries are my favorite food in the entire world.  Hands down, no questions asked.  I always told Randy that whenever I found out I was pregnant, I would have french fries for dinner that night.  And I did.  Both times.  For me, two of the most wonderful things about being pregnant were eating dessert after dinner every single night (real dessert – like cake) and ordering my veggie burger with fries instead of salad every single time.  And not feeling guilty about it.

So yes, I love my fries but I also love my skinny jeans and the two do not go together.  Believe me.  That is why I love making them in the oven.  Some people would say that they are not technically fries since they are not, um, fried.  I really don’t care.  For me, they are just as satisfying and really even more so, since I can truly enjoy them without a second thought.  Lots of ketchup is key for me too.

So before I tell you how I make my frites, allow me to tell you how I make my moules.  This recipe is for one (since I don’t eat them) and I adapt it depending on what I have in my refrigerator.  Someone from the onion family, someone aromatic, someone herby, and white wine are the keys here.

Moules for One
Dana Treat Original

Just so you have an idea of how versatile this recipe is, I have swapped out leeks, onions, scallions, fennel, thyme, and sherry for the ingredients you see listed here.  Randy always loves them.

Olive oil
1 large shallot, diced
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
Kosher salt
1 pound mussels, rinsed well and beards pulled off
¼ cup white wine (preferably one you would drink)
1 tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped

In a medium Dutch oven with a lid, heat just enough olive oil to coat the bottom.  Add the shallot and celery and adjust the heat to medium.  Add a large pinch of salt and sauté just until the vegetables start to get soft, about 5 minutes.  Carefully pour in the mussels and give them a good stir.  Pour in the wine and then sprinkle in the rosemary.  Give it another good stir, then lower the heat to medium-low and cover the pot.  Allow to cook for six minutes, giving the pot a good shake a couple of times.  Remove the lid and discard any mussels that haven’t opened.  Pour into a shallow bowl and serve with grilled bread.  And frites.

I have made these countless times and believe it or not, it is a little tricky getting them to turn out right.  If you love potatoes as much as I do, these will never be bad but use my tips to make them great.  For two people I would start with 2 large russet potatoes, 1½ tablespoon of olive oil, at least a teaspoon of salt and a lot of black pepper.  You will want your oven at 400ºF.  They will bake anywhere from anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes for the first leg.  It all depends on how brown you like them, how thin you cut your potatoes, your oven, etc.  After I do the flip, it’s just another 5 minutes or so to completely warm them through.  Here are my tips to get the most out of your frites.  (You don’t have to peel them but I do.)

1)  Trim your potatoes. Unless you are someone who likes a bit of burnt stuff on the ends of your frites (I know people who do), I would trim off the ends of your potatoes.  If I have a particularly bulbous one, I will trim off the sides too.  Then try to cut them in the as even pieces as possible.  That way they will bake and brown evenly.

2)  Soak your potatoes. Fill a large bowl with cold water and place the cut-up potatoes in the bowl for at least an hour.  This will remove some of the excess starch and which will keep them from sticking to the baking sheet and also make them crispier.

3)  Dry your potatoes. After their hour-long bath, it is important to dry them as well as possible.  I throw them in a kitchen towel and rub for a minute or two, then dry each one individually.  Lovingly.

4)  Don’t crowd your potatoes. For maximum flavor and texture, you want contact with the pan.  If you put too many frites on any pan, they will start to steam rather than bake.  Make sure each frite is touching the pan, not lolling about on another frite.  If you are making a lot, use more than one pan or bake them in batches.

5)  Go easy on the oil. I don’t just say this for healthy reasons.  If you use too much oil, the potatoes are likely to get soggy.  1½ tablespoon is about enough for 2 potatoes – 2½ tablespoons at most.  Just make sure you take the time to really mix coat all the frites with oil.  You could do this coating thing in a bowl, but why?  Just do the coating, mixing and salting directly on the baking sheet.  And speaking of salt…

6)  Be generous with salt. Potatoes of any kind need lots of salt.  These are no exception.

7)  Don’t move them around too much. Resist the urge to keep pulling them out of the oven and turning them over.  This is the tip that took me the longest to embrace.  I was always sure they were sticking and would try to move them around which would leave me with lots of severed frites.  The key is to actually let them stick and then cook – that way they will release.  Trust me.  They will not be browned on all sides.  The Earth will continue to spin on its axis.

8)  Be sure to make enough. People love these.  It’s not just me.  Be sure to plan on at least one potato per person and more if you have big eaters.  Moules are a light meal so you will be surprised how many frites you will want to eat alongside them.


  1. Great tips on making the perfect frites! I might make a pan tonight:)

    Comment by Maria — November 1, 2010 @ 10:04 pm

  2. I have been making sweet potato fries every night, baked in the oven! They don’t hurt the skinny jeans.

    and I never make mussels at home, because Henry can’t look at them (or clams or oysters), but I always order them out, and they are of course best with frites w/ a Belgian beer.

    Comment by stacey snacks — November 1, 2010 @ 10:58 pm

  3. I cannot imagine cooking something without tasting it…especially since I have a tendency to taste every thirty seconds or so. Which is possibly why I haven’t ever cooked moules, since I’m not a shellfish person. but I know enough to know that these look delicious (and can you go wrong with white wine, something herby and something oniony…uh…no). Love the frites also. Baked is the way to go!

    Comment by Joanne — November 2, 2010 @ 12:18 am

  4. Yum, I love oven frites. I also have never cooked meat and don’t really know how. We did try a few moules once at a fancy restaurant — they are very strange if you’ve never had one before.

    Comment by Anna — November 2, 2010 @ 12:31 am

  5. I have been “frying” my potatoes like that for years …… and to jazz them up a bit I sometimes add some “mrs Dash” or “herb de provence” – but a little taste trick is to sprinkling a little sea salt or fleur de sel just before serving – but very sparingly .

    Not a mussel fan ….. so I trust your culinary expertise that they taste great .


    Comment by Gourmet Goddess — November 2, 2010 @ 12:44 am

  6. the potato tips are so great. I stay away from trying to achieve any kind of crispy potato goodness. Mine are always soggy.

    Comment by Damaris @Kitchen Corners — November 2, 2010 @ 1:07 am

  7. We so love baked “fries” too and I said “oohhhhh so that’s what you do to get them not to stick so badly” when I read the soak the potatoes part. We love sweet potatoes this way too! Thanks Dana!

    Comment by Lindsey — November 2, 2010 @ 1:18 am

  8. I make a version of this. Garlic is a nice addition, even with the onions. Also, I like some chopped flatleaf parsley sprinkled on right before serving. It adds nice color, and it also adds a nice freshness vs. (or in addition to) something like rosemary.

    Since you can’t taste it, those are my inputs, as a mussels-eater! I consider parsley a “must” with mussels (maybe it’s just my style; I don’t eat them out ever so I can’t compare to restaurant mussels) but I also like the idea of oregano. I normally don’t think of rosemary and seafood together, but that could be personal preference. There is also something to be said for using what you have on hand that day.

    Comment by bobcat — November 2, 2010 @ 6:36 am

  9. Also, some people like to throw spicy sausage in there too… instead of adding the meat itself, you could echo those flavors by adding some chile powder, paprika, etc.

    I have been reading your blog for a couple months and I really enjoy it. Just for some reason felt the desire to add my “two cents” today, since this is probably the ONLY area I could ever advise you! ;) (being a mussels eater, but not as good of a cook as you)

    Comment by bobcat — November 2, 2010 @ 6:39 am

  10. I love mussels and it is so nice to see recipes for them. I’ve noticed that we have a great crop this year in the bay and that people are harvesting them; however, I’m still a bit worried that they are polluted. I wonder how one figures that out.
    Love your tips for baking fries! I wish I had the excuse of pregnancy to eat them; however, I’m long out of my skinny jeans.
    Thanks for a great post.

    Comment by Lael Hazan — November 2, 2010 @ 2:01 pm

  11. About how long do you cook them at 400 degrees? I need to get over the fact that they don’t get brown all over. I probably turn them too much as well.

    Comment by linda — November 2, 2010 @ 7:54 pm

  12. I love fries too!! I did the absolute same thing when pregnant… bring on the fries!!

    Maybe we should start a club??

    Comment by Lisa Faley — November 2, 2010 @ 8:20 pm

  13. Making mussels so you can make fries makes complete sense to me. I love how quick, easy, and versatile mussels are, and your fries look great. And, I always make oven-fried fries. Great suggestions for making them great!

    Comment by lisaiscooking — November 2, 2010 @ 8:46 pm

  14. I often read your posts and think of Randy and what a lucky man he is! These mussels looks wonderful. You made one of my favorite meals here. Thanks for the post. I hope you’re well. xoxo

    Comment by redmenace — November 2, 2010 @ 10:32 pm

  15. I’m laughing because you once told me Randy and I would get along since we both require frequent snacks to keep our moods steady. You know what else we have in common? A love for mussels. My husband thinks they’re disgusting, so I never make them at home.

    Another reason for me to come back to Seattle.

    Comment by Cheryl — November 3, 2010 @ 5:40 am

  16. I once made mussels for the two of us. I needed to pad it out a bit and read a recipe that had you adding chickpeas to the mussels. The chickpeas were the best part! I’d double the sauce ingredients and toss in a drained can of chickpeas with the mussels. If Randy is lucky you will share some chickpeas with him.
    Have you seen the buzz about cold frying potatoes? I’d like to try that when I feel really indulgent.

    Comment by Lynn D. — November 8, 2010 @ 12:43 am

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