For Kurt’s birthday week, because I like to celebrate things like birthdays for more than just one day, I always whip up some of his favorite foods. He’ll find scones in the kitchen for breakfast, usually his favorite pasta meal the day before or the day after his birthday, of course a birthday cake, and at some point in the week he’ll be served a meaty meal with some cut of beef. It’s not that he never gets to eat beef any other time of year. But, since I don’t eat it, I don’t choose to cook it unless it’s a special occasion and I’m also cooking something else for myself. This year, I cheated. I didn’t actually cook anything with beef. Instead, I devised a bistro-style menu which would include steak frites for Kurt and moules frites for me. I knew Kurt would prefer his steak to be grilled, and that meant he’d cook it himself. I was left to concentrate on the frites which could be kept warm in the oven while my mussels quickly steamed. It all sounded so easy. I made the fried matchstick potatoes from Barefoot in Paris, and the ale-steamed mussels from In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite.
Naturally, my plan fell apart. The potatoes required more time for frying than I anticipated because there were more batches than expected, and of course, frying made a huge mess. The potatoes were peeled and then cut on a benriner with the medium slicing blade attached. They were soaked in water, drained, and dried with towels. Matchstick-size fries are simpler to fry than thicker ones because there’s only one frying step. You don’t have to blanch in oil and then re-crisp since they’re so skinny. Just be sure to use a large pot with plenty of room, use a thermometer to check the oil temperature, and fry in small batches. Once the fries are removed from the oil, drain them on a rack set over a baking sheet, sprinkle with salt, and then keep them warm in a 250-300 degree F oven. Since I was hustling to finish frying all those batches of frites, I didn’t pay much attention to the mussels. Thankfully, they don’t require much attention. I soaked the mussels in water with some flour to be sure they were clean. Then, they were drained and rinsed. In another large pot on the stove, shallots and garlic were sauteed in olive oil. Some good Belgian ale was added and brought to a simmer, and then the mussels were placed in the pan, and the lid was set on top. When the mussels opened, they were transferred to a serving platter, Dijon mustard and butter were added to the ale mixture in the pot, and all of that was whisked to combine. The resulting sauce was poured over the mussels before serving. It all worked out in the end; it just took a little longer than expected.
To serve the frites, they were piled on a platter, sprinkled with chopped parsley, and I added a drizzle of white truffle oil. After tasting them, the time it took to make them and the mess from frying didn’t matter anymore. They were pure, crispy goodness and with truffle oil were beyond words. I was thrilled with the mussels too, and I instantly thought this was the best version of mussels I’ve ever made at home. And, what about Kurt’s steak? He chose bison instead of beef, and grilled it to his own exacting standards. The bistro concept worked out great, but how could it not with a big, shared platter of frites?