Looking for something different? Try moules

Published 12:05 am Saturday, May 30, 2015

We’ve been on the road again. Last week we drove to Nashville, Tenn., to celebrate my husband’s sister’s 90th birthday. She wanted the celebration on the day and we made plans for that, but somewhere along the way the children changed the big celebration at the country club to Sunday night and we missed that, but we joined her two children and their spouses for the actual day, May 20, at 360, a neighborhood place that was very casual. KaKa is Landon’s only sibling and 23 years separate them—perhaps unique. He has never found such a wide separation with nothing in between. We stayed with the son and his wife who has found a great breakfast treat that she knows we like. She buys ham biscuits with brie which we heat for breakfast in the microwave. They are quite tasty!

We go through Birmingham and I can’t resist eating at one of Frank Stitt’s places. Highlands, his signature restaurant, is not open for lunch, but neighboring Chez Fon Fon is a nice alternative. On a Wednesday they were full for lunch but it was a nice day and we took a table on the sidewalk; nice for people watching, although the church across the street is doing a building program which was a bit noisy. We started with sazaracs. I usually do not order this drink outside New Orleans. But Fon Fon has put it on the menu and they do a good job with it. We had a beet salad on greens with blue cheese and nuts. Then I had moules. I like them and have been doing them for years at home as well as often ordering them when eating out. I once had a bed and breakfast and had a guest named Mell Pell who was in town selling farmed mussels from Maine. He was the only game on the block back then when mussels were just beginning to be eaten in the US.

Fon Fon’s mussels were in a seasonal broth of tomatoes and basil with new potatoes. So I thought I would share with you.

Moules served in a Spicy Tomato Sauce (My version)

4 lb. mussels

3 tablespoons butter

1 large onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 cup white wine

1 28 oz. can chopped tomatoes

1 bay leaf

½ cup fresh basil leaves

¾ cup heavy cream

1 lb. red potatoes chopped in small cubes

Scrub the mussels and remove their beards. Discard any that are already open and don’t close when tapped on the work surface.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan and cook the onion and garlic stirring occasionally over a moderate heat until the onion is softened but not browned. Add the wine, tomatoes, potatoes, and bay leaf and cook for 5 minutes more. Add the mussels. Cover the saucepan lightly and simmer over low heat for 2-3 minutes, shaking the can occasionally. Use tongs to remove the mussels as they open, putting them into a warm dish.

Add the cream and basil to the tomato and potatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes more. Return the mussels to the mixture and serve immediately with bread or frites.

The French usually serve the frites with the moules either over them or in a separate dish.