Here I go again throwing fancy phrases at you. Moules Frites is just the French way of saying mussels and fries. Now there are many iterations of this dish such as Moules marinière (marinara sauce) or a Moules à la crème (cream sauce). In my option the best by far is mussels in a white wine and garlic broth. Here, I added an additional layer of pancetta which gives the broth an extra layer of dimension, and the mussels some extra texture and salt as you bite into a piece of crispy pancetta.
Whenever I think of mussels I can’t help but think of all the restaurants in New York City I used to visit for a “Mussel Monday” special. For a fixed price, these restaurants would serve all you can eat mussels and trust me with the number of mussels I eat a restaurant could go belly up. While unlimited mussels were a great idea often times they lacked depth in flavor. These moules frites with pancetta take 20 minutes and beats out most restaurant’s mussels.
Mussels should be bought and made same day, MAX you have 24 hours. These mollusks need to remained chilled so once you bring them home take them out of the bag so they can breathe and store them in the fridge.
Oh barnacles! You got to clean them. When you are ready to clean the mussels soak them in fresh water for 10 minutes so they can release any sand or dirt. Now comes the tedious part. One by one clean the outside of the mussels by running them under cold water, and rubbing the shell gently. Inspect the sides of the mussel for the “beard” (stringy hair popping out from the side). To remove pull and yank on the beard towards the “hinge” or bottom corner. Most beards come off easily however some might put up a fight. Don’t be scared to get aggressive and play a little tug of war.
Honestly, nothing, this is a dish in itself. I like to buy enough mussels per person so that you don’t leave hungry. Good rule of thumb is buy 1 – 1/2 lbs a person, and plenty of fries.
Render the Pancetta – In a Dutch oven over medium heat add in the pre-cubed pancetta. Cook until fat has rendered down and pancetta is crispy. Depending on the size this could be 5-10 minutes. Once crispy, with a slotted spoon, ladle the pancetta out of the pot and reserve on the side for later.
Assemble the Broth – Add onions, and garlic to the rendered fat and cook on low for 3-4 minutes until onions are translucent and garlic is fragrant. Add wine and chili flakes, and scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to release any leftover pancetta bits. Cook wine for 3 minutes then add in the broth, 2 tbsp of butter, and 1/2 tsp of salt.
Add Mussels– Add your cleaned mussels to the pot over medium heat and cover. After 2 minutes give them a stir and cover once more. Check again in another 2 minutes. Mussels take approx 4-7 minutes to cook. You will know they are done when all of them have opened up, excluding the duds (discard those). Ladle the mussels into a bowl and top with the crispy pancetta, and a boat load of Parmesan fries.
I have an unspoken rule for mussels and clams. Eat them same day.