Moules Frites for Bastille Day

moules frites

I know, I know, I know. You can still smell the sulfur from the 4th of July or Canada Day. You are in no mood for celebrating any more independence. But those wacky folks in France want you to continue the party and help them celebrate their independence from absolutism. So download some Piaf, pour a glass of Pastis, and pull out the moules frites. It’s time to celebrate Bastille Day. Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité.

While eating those moules frites in celebration, you can scream “joyeux jour de la Bastille” if you must. Just don’t scream it in France. They’ll look at you like you’re bonkers. In France they don’t celebrate Bastille Day, they celebrate Le quatorze juillet. They’re very picky about the moniker too. It’s not at all like the USA where we say Independence Day and/or the 4th of July. Le quatorze juillet, c’est ça.

It seems that Bastille Day is an American holiday, a bit like Cinco de Mayo. Only the French (unlike most Mexicans) actually do celebrate the day. They just don’t call it Bastille Day in any language. That name is all ours and I choose to celebrate it with moules frites.

If you’re still wondering what the party is all about. Let me enlighten you.

Most folks think that Le quatorze juillet (Bastille Day) is the day the French throw a party celebrating their independence from tyranny– symbolically marked by the beheading of Louis XVI. But that’s not entirely true. Louis was beheaded in janvier (January), not juillet (July). The death of the king in 1793 marks the end of the French Revolution (and technically their independence). However, Le quatorze juillet marks the day in 1789 when ordinary people stormed a state prison known as the Bastille (one of many acts of defiance that marked that turbulent time in France). Though not technically the day they gained independence, Le quatorze juillet has come to represent the symbolic first step towards French independence from its monarchy. Besides, the French like their holidays and know how to throw a party. Juillet (July) is a much nicer time to throw a party. The weather is better… The summer produce is here… etc.

Wine Pairing

Arrogant Frog Chardonnay Viognier (Ribet White) 

Arrogant Frog Chardonnay Viognier
Arrogant Frog. If the boldly playful name doesn’t grab you, the art on the label just might. This is a French wine that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Keeping to that theme, this wine flashes bright gold in the glass. Its aromas continue the party atmosphere with tropical floral notes and ripe peaches. This wine is […]
Greg Henry

Price $10

Pairs well with Most seafood and fish dishes including sushi. White meats, blue cheeses, and fruit desserts.

Moules Frites

The only bummer about moving the fête from winter to summer is that pesky “R” rule. The one that says you can only eat shellfish in months that contain the letter ‘R’. Does that mean no moules frites in July?

Well phooey to that. Exactly when and where the ‘R’ rule first appeared (c. 1700’s) is a bit of a debate; but historically, for health and conservation practices, it was thought best to refrain from eating shellfish during warm water months. During the warmer months, as ocean temperatures rise, shellfish naturally tend to spawn or reproduce. For conservation practices, wild shellfish were not harvested during the spawning seasons. In this same era (c. 1700–1800’s, pre-refrigeration) it was dangerous to ship and, ultimately consume, shellfish that sat out in the heat.

Now, thanks to sustainable farming practices, strict water quality monitoring, and advanced wet storage techniques it’s safe to consume farmed oysters and shellfish all year long. Of course, choose your shellfish carefully.  When it comes to mussels look for shiny shells that smell pleasantly of the deep sea– the vast majority should be tightly closed. Avoid any that smell ‘fishy’, look dry, or are mostly open. Ask your fishmonger for help if you prefer.

Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité, Moules Frites. Happy Bastille Day. GREG

moules frites

Steamed Mussels- Moules Frites 

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 2Published
moules frites


  • 2 pound large russet potatoes
  • oil (for frying)
  • kosher salt (to taste)
  • 2 pound fresh live mussels
  • ½ cup white vermouth
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 clove garlic (peeled and sliced)
  • 1 fennel bulb
  • peanut or canola oil (as needed for frying)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoon minced chives


Prep the potatoes: Scrub the potatoes, peel them if you like (I don’t), then slice them lengthwise into slabs, 3/8 inch thick. Cut the slabs lengthwise into 3/8‑inch batons. Place the cut potatoes in a bowl filled with cold water to rinse off some of the excess starch and prevent discoloration. Potatoes may be cut up to a day in advance if they are left in water and stored in the refrigerator.

Prep the mussels: Rinse the mussels well. Discard any that remain open when tapped, then pull off any ‘beards’. (Fresh mussels look shiny and should only smell pleasantly of the sea– the vast majority should be tightly closed. Avoid any that smell ‘fishy’, look dry or are mostly open.)

Keep the mussels in a colander in the refrigerator until it’s time to cook them. Mussels can be cleaned up to an hour before cooking.

Make the sauce: Pour the white vermouth into a deep, 4‑quart, nonreactive saucepan over high heat and boil until the liquid is almost completely evaporated; add the cream and boil the liquid again until it is reduced by half. Stir if necessary to prevent it from boiling over. Meanwhile, split the fennel bulb in half lengthwise, remove the core, trim off the leafy end and reserve for another use. Slice the bulb into ¼‑inch slices. Add the sliced fennel and garlic to the reduced cream, bring it back to a boil; turn off the heat and set aside.

Give the potatoes their first fry: Preheat the oil in a deep fryer (or tall, deep sided stock pot) to 325 degrees. Line a sheet pan with paper towels to absorb the oil from the cooked potatoes. Pour the potatoes from their water filled bowl into a colander then pat them completely dry with paper towels. Fry the potatoes in several batches to avoid crowding the oil, stirring them to distribute evenly in the oil until they just begin to turn golden, about 4 to 5 minutes. Move the par-cooked potatoes to the paper towel lined sheet pan and let them come to room temperature, at least 10 minutes and up to an hour before serving time. Raise the temperature of the oil to 375 degrees.

Cook the mussels: Bring the cream sauce back to a boil over medium high heat; add the mussels, cover the pan and cook, shaking the pan once or twice until they begin to open; about 2 minutes. Remove the lid and shake the pan again. Pour in the wine, shake and cook for another 2 minutes or so until the wine reduces some. Cover the pan, remove from heat and set aside.

Give the potatoes their second fry: Working with about half the potatoes at a time, fry in the 375 degree oil until golden brown and crisp, about 4 minutes. Drain them on a paper-towel lined baking sheet; toss with kosher salt.

Pour the mussels and all the broth into a large bowl; garnish with chives. Serve in individual bowls with the frites on the side.