Saturday, January 30, 2010

Mussels à la Belgique

I don't actually know that there is such a thing as Belgian-style mussels but I'm not entirely making this name up either. The way these are prepared are very similar to how they're eaten on the Belgian coast. With a dipping sauce, some bread and, here I am majorly lacking today, some golden fries.

In the Netherlands, mussels are usually on the menu when the letter "R" is present in the name of the month: from September till April, you can find mussels on the menu at restaurants, for sale at the fish mongers and on the stove in Dutch kitchens all over the country. Well, I wasn't up for making fries what with one thing and another, but I didn't mind making the sauce and baking the bread. "R" has been in the months for a long time and I was really starting to crave these puppies!

I dug out a bag of mussels from the freezer. They're so quick to prepare and totally hit the spot today: their salty, oceany smell reminded me of summer, of holidays on the beach and of happy times. Get frozen ones if you can, they've been cleaned and scrubbed already and will save you a lot of time. Don't eat the ones that have broken shells or don't open up during the cooking process: they're likely to be bad and may make you sick.

2 pounds of mussels
1 rib of celery, diced
1/2 carrot, peeled and diced
2 shallots, peeled and quartered
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
2 cups of white wine
2 cups of water

Dipping sauce
2 tablespoons of mustard
2 tablespoons of mayonnaise
1 tablespoon of vinegar

Mix into a smooth sauce.

Put the water, the wine, shallots, carrots, garlic and celery in a Dutch oven with a lid. Bring to a boil. Lift the lid, add the mussels and boil for seven to eight minutes. The mussels will open up and will be ready to eat.

To serve, place the pan on the table with an extra plate for the shells. Serve with fries and a dipping sauce. Use your fingers to pull the mussels out of the shells or a small fork, dip into the sauce and eat up.

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