MUSSELS FOR CHRISTMAS - Belgian Style

So today I thought I'd share with you a recipe that has been made for me many times by a wonderful Belgian friend who always lamented, every time he made it, how this was a favourite around Christmas time with them in Belgium.

Mussels with Home Fries!






Instead of the usual turkey and ham and stuffing and gravy...(mmmm), and all that good stuff, I wanted to make something different this year for Christmas.  Actually, I've had this mussels recipe many times during Christmas time but it was many Christmases ago and this time around (now that I'm armed with a camera), I wanted to show you how it was made. Ready? Let's go!





Day 1 - Preparing the Mussels


First, I bought roughly around 2-3lbs (900 - 1300 grams), of live mussels per person, which is ideal. 



Next - here comes the laborious part, (I think), rinsing and soaking them overnight in cold, salted water in order to clean and purify the mussels.  I filled a bucket with cold water and then added some table salt.  Actually, lots of table salt, lol.



On average, seawater in the world's oceans has a salinity of about 3.5% (35 g/L, 599 mm) This means that every kilogram (roughly one litre by volume) of seawater has approximately 35 grams (1.2 oz) of dissolved salts
Considering this, I tried replicating the same salinity in the pail of water.






After topping up with more water, I swished them around one more time just to make sure they were all nicely covered in that salted water. (Brrrr, that water was FREEZING!)

 


Eventually they will sink to the bottom as they open up to clean themselves.

Note:  The mussels think they are again in high tide and therefore open to clean and feed.



Day 2 - Preparing the Vegetables, Fries and Mussels

Now you want to get your ingredients ready to mix with your mussels:
  • salt
  • pepper
  • onions
  • celery
  • water



Quarter, or slice in rings, the onions - whatever you like, I don't really care, lol. Then chop up the celery.   



Set them aside.


Preparing the Fries


If there's one thing those Belgians are famous for - it's their fries.  Natural too, no frozen-bought fries!  So the next thing to do is peel and cut up some (russet) potatoes into fries.






I cheated, I used a french-fry cutter :).  Anyways, to keep the fries from going brown while preparing the mussels, I cover them with cool water - not too cold otherwise when it's time to dip them in the oil it will cool the oil down too quickly.


Preparing the Mussels


Ok, now for the mussels.
After draining the mussels from that dirty, yucky water that they were sitting in overnight, set them aside in another pot. 
What we are going to do here is make a layer of vegetables, then a layer of mussels....

Place in a pot, some water with the chopped up celery...



and onions.


Then add some salt and pepper.  In this case, I used white pepper but you can use black of course.  White pepper is just milder.



Next you add a layer of mussels....




And a layer of onions, celery, salt and pepper...




Then more mussels...




And that's it!  Cover the pot(s) for about, I don't know, 6 - 10 mins after the water starts boiling?  You'll know when they are ready when you see the mussels on top are opened and cooked!

Meanwhile, I hope you have those fries in the fryer frying!! Lol. 
The mussels don't take that long to cook - I'd say 20-25 mins. from start to finish and the fries, well, maybe a few minutes longer depending on your fryer.



Good.  The fries are ready and so are the mussels!




I can hardly get a good snapshot with all that steam! :)  But you can see that they are open.




And voila! Ziezo! That's it! You're ready to eat!  Just dump everything into a plate and wolf her down!  Sorry, I mean display everything nicely on the plate for your guests and enjoy!






Now I think the Belgians make a mixture of mustard and vinegar as a dipping sauce for the mussels.  Otherwise you can eat it plain!



Extras

I wanted to show how dirty the mussels were so I did a comparison snapshot to show you the difference.



Now, I've never seen this before the last 2 previous times I've had mussels. 
I found a tiny one - more than a few times - amongst or within the regular mussels and just when I thought they couldn't get any tinier... I found an itsy, bitsy, teeny, weeny one!!




And last, but not least... what to do with any left over mussels you say?
Well, make a salad!  Take the mussel meat out of their shells and drain the excess juices.


(Eeeew!  Looks kind of gross doesn't it?, lol)



Cut up some spring onions and parsley.  Get some mayonnaise. 
Mix spring onions, mayo and mussels together.
Sprinkle some parsley on top.
Chill overnight or for a few hours in the fridge and presto!
Instant mussel salad!






So what did you have for Christmas?  Do you like mussels?  If so, how do you make yours?

Thanks for reading!



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