~ Totally Undeserving of the James Beard Award

~ Completely Undeserving of the James Beard Award ~

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Bonjour! Bienvenue!... s'il vous plaît venez dans notre bistrot, s'il vous plaît avoir un siege...

...Notre soir spécial est moules dans une sauce à la crème de safran, frites et un petit morceau de saumon au pesto avec l'ail germent.

Oh, umm… désolé, vous ne parlez pas français?

Ok, permettez-moi de traduire.  Our special tonight is mussels in a saffron cream sauce with a side of fries.  That is also served with a small serving of Copper River King Salmon with a garlic scapes pesto.

Mussels served with “French Fries” are very common in France and the crunchy, salty fries pairs well with the soft, savory mussels.

I can not take credit for the mussel recipe, it came from a cookbook which I picked up at a book-signing event at the Palace Ballroom hosted by Tom Douglas.  At the event, various local chefs sell their books, sign them and offer appetizers.  One I picked up was Thierry Rautureau’s cookbook “Rovers” from the restaurant of the same name. He offered a delectable slow braised pork belly (basically uncured, uncut bacon) with some type of wonderful sauce...and he's a nice guy!
I bet a lot of you, like me have thrown mussels in a pot, steam them in wine with garlic and red pepper flakes…maybe pour the whole thing over noodles, and it’s quite good. In Seattle, we are lucky to be able to get wonderful Penn Cove mussels from Whidbey Island quite easily.  Going into it, I thought this recipe would be very similar... Je me suis trompé!  This was amazing! Aromatic, silky, packed with layers of flavor. Well worth the effort.

I decided if I were going to the trouble of this recipe, I would make homemade fries…pomme frites.  The key in making crunchy, perfectly cooked fries is double cooking them. I have a fryer that I am able to set the temperature so no need for a thermometer.  Cut the fries to the desired size and soak them in cold water while you go on to do other things, such as setting up your “mise en place”  [miz ɑ̃ plas], or putting in place or everything in it’s place. I find it well worth the effort to pre-prepare your recipes. Most times you will need measured ingredients immediately. You don’t want your sauce boiling over while you are pawing through your spice rack for Herbes de Provence or whatever.  Slice, dice, mince, chop, measure and find all of your ingredients first before doing anything else…other than sampling the wine of course! By using this method all you need to focus on is your assembly.

So, back to the fries, after soaking, drain and pat as dry as you can. Your fryer should be ready at 325 F, your tongs and or bamboo strainer and a paper towel lined sheet pan are also at the ready. Be sure to have on hand whatever you will spice them up with, mine I went with sea salt, coarse ground black pepper and fresh chopped rosemary. Toss in a handful of your julienned potatoes, just enough so they are all submerged in the hot oil. Cook until they are blond in color, just soft. Mine usually take about 7 minutes, removed and drain on the paper towels, repeat to finish round one. Crank the fryer up to 365-375, cook until your desired color is achieved, again mine is another 7 minutes. Remove and place them in a large bowl and immediately toss with your spices (which are ready!, remember kids? mise en place?) so they will stick to the hot oil. The first round cooks the interior and the second on higher heat cooks and crisps up the outside. Time these well as I find keeping them warm in an over doesn’t work well.

So now the mussels…oh, the mussels!  Saffron, Pernod, butter (of course, it's French!), shallots, garlic, fresh herbs, crème fraiche (fancy sour cream)…all burbling and steaming away together, waiting for those mussels to open their "mouths" to drink in the sauce and for their liquor to ooze out and mingle with the sauce.

I spotted some garlic scapes at the Sunday farmers market and picked up a bunch. Garlic scapes are the green tops of elephant garlic. There are many uses for them and when putting together the nights menu, I figured I could whip up some sort of pesto using them and I did.  I grilled/smoked some small portions of Copper River King on the Traeger using apple pellets, smeared some pesto on a plate and topped it with the salmon.


Music to Cook By:  Cafe de Paris, various French pop artists. How can you cook French food without listening to Edith Piaf's "La vie en Rose"?...Des yeux qui font baisser les miens...Un rir' qui se perd sur sa bouch'...Voila le portrait, sans retouch'...De I'homme auquel j'appartiens...

I haven't made it to France (yet!), but tonight I pretended I was there...

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