Sunday, November 21, 2010


Belgian cuisine is heavily influenced by French and German cuisine depending on the area. Staples include meat, potatoes, and beer. Endives are a particularly popular, and mussels and french fries (moules-frites) are a common fast food near the border with France.

Until about 6 months ago, I refused to eat cooked seafood of any kind. Then I went to Granville Moore's in Washington, DC, one of the moules-frites joints that are becoming more common in the area. The fries were amazing, of course, and the mussels were served in a delicious garlic and white wine broth. Turns out there was nothing not to love, so I decided to make my own. I learned that the secret to Belgian fries is frying them twice, but since I was cooking on a Monday night after a long day I totally wimped out and bought extra-crispy frozen french fries that only needed to be fried once. I'm not proud of it, but they were delicious. The mussels were far more complicated. Not the cooking, that part was pretty simple. But I've never cooked any kind of seafood before, so I was a little neurotic about getting sick from bad shellfish. I got a bag of mussels from H Mart and the first thing to do was pick out the ones that were open. But you can also see if they close. So I was pretty sure the ones I took out were not going to close. Then I scrubbed off the remaining ones and removed as much of the "beards" as I could and threw them in the pan with the broth, then put the lid on. After a few minutes, most seemed to be open, so I dumped the whole thing into a bowl. The next thing to freak out about was that while most had opened considerably and a few hadn't opened at all, a few had only opened a little. I decided they were ok, but I was nervous until I realized I definitely had not gotten food poisoning.

The last part of the meal was endives braised in butter and lemon. They were good, and not as bitter as raw endives, but probably not something I'd make again.

Braised Endives

10-12 Belgian endives, cut in half lengthwise
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup water

Melt butter in a large saute or frying pan with a lid that fits tightly. Meanwhile, trim and discard any browned bit son the ends of the endives. When butter is melted, lay endives in a single layer in the pan. Sprinkle with lemon juice and salt. Pour water down along the side of the pan. Cover and reduce heat to low. Let cook, undisturbed, until endives are very tender, 20 to 30 minutes. When endives are very tender, set lid ajar and cook until endives start to brown. Turn endives over and cook until they are browned on both sides.

Mussels Mariniere

4 quarts mussels, cleaned and debearded
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
6 tbsp chopped fresh parsley (I used a couple tbsp dried)
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
2 cups white wine
3 tablespoons butter, divided

Scrub mussels. Pull off beards, the tuft of fibers that attach each mussel to it's shell, cutting them at the base with a paring knife. Discard those that do not close when you handle them and any with broken shells. Set aside. Combine onion, garlic, 4 tablespoons parsley, bay leaf, thyme, wine, and 2 tablespoons butter in large pot. Bring to boil. Lower heat, and cook 2 minutes. Add mussels, and cover. Cook just until shells open, 3 to 4 minutes. Do not overcook. Remove mussels from sauce, and place in bowls. Strain liquid, and return to pot. Add remaining butter and parsley. Heat until butter melts. Pour over mussels.


Follow the instructions on the package.

frites and endives

the big picture

the most important part of the meal

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