mosselen met an american

the first time i was in stijns apartment and he was giving me a tour he pointed to the friteuse or fryer and informed me that it was a requirement in a belgian kitchen because every belgian boy needs to be able to make fritjes at home. never having experienced being with a man as attached to kitchen appliances as i this admission had me a bit out of sorts. but now 3500 miles away from home and in a foreign kitchen, away from the familiarities of my own kitchen and without the tools that i have come to rely on over the years i wonder which would i consider a necessity? which tools and appliances do i feel speak about who i am, where i come from, and how i cook? would it be my stand mixer, my food processor, my whirly pop...? but none of these are necessarily associated with my being american. whereas, i'm pretty sure that they would revoke your belgian citizenship for failure to cook french fries or mussels. since there aren't a lot of ways to improve on the always delicious fried potato i chose to wow my man with my own version of mussels the other night for dinner. and of course, because he's a proper belgian, he had special pots for me to prepare individual servings.

savory mussel stew

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 shallots, chopped
8 ounces spicy smoked sausage (i used merguez), cut into 1/4 in pieces
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 can peeled tomatoes
1 c firmly packed fresh basil, thinly sliced
2 tbsp chopped fresh marjoram
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 cups clam juice
3 lbs mussels, scrubbed and beards removed
1/2 c grated reggiano


if you happen to have those handy pots, divide all ingredients among them. otherwise...
warm the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. add the shallots and sausage. cook for 3 minutes. stir in the garlic and wine and cook for 1 min longer. add the tomatoes, basil, marjoram, paprika, and pepper. cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. add the clam juice, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil. reduce the heat to low and add the mussels. cover and simmer for 8 minutes, or until the mussels open. discard any unopened mussels. taste and season if necessary. i served them over spaghetti and topped with the reggiano. i recommend grilling some crusty bread to accompany. enjoy!