Mussels From Brussels

Well, not really. Prince Edward Island, actually. But I was channeling our Belgian brethren, inspired by the bag of fat, juicy bivalves in the fridge and the memories of all the moules frites I used to enjoy at my favorite spot in République back when I got paid to go to Paris every fall. Sigh. Keeping it simple, I steamed them in beer with our very own carrots, beet greens, garlic mustard, and ramps. I made a ramp aioli with olive oil and yuzu juice, and to dip in said green goodness, a big-ass bowl of twice-fried Yukon Gold batons.

And, as the observant among you can discern, a foamy glass of Cooperstown’s own Ommegang Rare Vos (Sly Fox). The good people there are so good at making traditional Belgian ales that Duvel, the Belgian beer giant, bought them a few years back. So I get to enjoy the fragrant complexity of something very like the real thing without breaking the 100 mile rule. Win/win.

Those yellow flowers with the mussels are from last fall’s bolted Asian cabbage. They taste like broccoli. Also, ramp aioli for fry dipping? Fuck yeah.

7 comments to Mussels From Brussels

  • butterface

    FIRST.

    'back when I got paid to go to Paris every fall'
    Fuck you.

    But I do love a good dose of moules frites. Yours is all sexified, and probably much tastier than my Belgian local. Ramps and yuzu require the kitchen staff to go the extra mile, and they're too busy making pipes out of carrots for that shit.

    And no, I was never actually on staff there.

  • Zoomie

    Makes me nostalgic for my time in Belgium – the beers, the mussels, the frîtes, the chocolate. Man, do I love that little country!

  • Christine

    Holy cow, these look delicious.

    Also, tips on getting the mussels grit free? I never seem to be able to manage not mucking up my sauce. I've taken to (after meticulously scrubbing and debearding) steaming up the mussels separately, straining the fluid, and then adding that to whatever aromatics I might have sauteed, but it never tastes as delicious.

    And I wholeheartedly ditto Butterface's statement re: Paris. *sigh*

  • peter

    Brittany: I don't actually miss the job, just the travel: Paris, Madrid, Basel, San Fran, Chicago, Miami… 3 days on, four days off, two days on. Maybe someday if you put down the pipe you've meticulously crafted from caramelized meringue (and for which Brooke has crocheted an adorable angora pipe cozy, with tassels) and actually decide to make something of yourself, you can get a job like I had.

    Zoomie: Never been. Someday.

    Christine: I'd suggest buying rope-grown mussels; they're more sustainable and, since they grow in open water, they don't accumulate the grit from the ocean floor.

  • lisa

    I recently became a big fan of Rare Vos. I do like those Belgian style beers. I've never used it for steaming mussels though, but now I will.

  • Hunter Angler Gardener Cook

    I've eaten mussels this way, but not made them. I know a few people who have tried it and said it was nasty – do you think they used a beer that was too hoppy? Belgian beers tend to be maltier, yes?

    Ramp aioli? I'd buy THAT fer a dollar…

    ;-)

  • peter

    Lisa: It's so creamy and deep.

    Hank: I think I added some white wine as well, and an ice cube of reduced pork stock. And the total volume of liquid was pretty small relative to the mussels. I think less hoppy beers would tend to work better, and this one is much less hoppy than a similarly-colored IPA.

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I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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