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Moules Frites and Leave-the-Vampires-Alone Garlic Bread

We had a fabulous End-of-Fall-Break dinner in the backyard last night. We stayed out till we needed candles, sipped champagne, enjoyed the company, and just took deep breaths because today it's back to the scheduled grind of school, work, homework, projects, and early bedtimes.

Here's the genesis of the dinner. I received a phone call from the Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf earlier in the day...

D: Mom, I'm going to make mussels and fries for dinner. Okay?
C: Okay.
D: And garlic bread. This is something we ate on the cruise.
C: So, I need to stop at the store on my way home from work?
D: No, I already went with Daddy. Also, the garlic bread is going to be garlic bread like Daddy likes - a lot of butter and a little bit of garlic. Not like your garlic bread - a little bit of butter and a lot of garlic. Daddy says that your garlic bread can kill vampires.

So, almost 18 years into this love affair and Jake still hasn't gotten on board with my level of garlic adoration. What is up with that? Fine. I can make some Leave-the-Vampires-Alone garlic bread to go with D's Moules Frites.


  • 2 pounds mussels, soaked, scrubbed, and dried
  • 1 stick of butter, divided in half
  • splash of olive oil
  • 3 to 4 whole juniper berries, crushed
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and diced (approximately 1 C)
  • 1 red onion, diced (approximately 1 C)
  • 1 C white wine (I used a Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 1 C organic heavy cream
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 C fresh chopped herbs (I used a mixture of parsley, tarragon, and thyme)

Place 1/2 stick of butter and crushed juniper berries in a large, flat-bottom pan with a lid. Add a splash of olive oil to keep the butter from burning. Heat until the butter is completely melted and foamy.

Add in the fennel and onion. Cook until the fennel is softened and the onion beginning to caramelize. Deglaze the pan with the wine. Once the wine begins to simmer, place the mussels in a single layer in the pan and add the remaining butter. Cook for one to two minutes, then pour in the cream. Stir to combine, then cover and steam until the mussels open. Check them after five minutes. They are cooked and ready when the shells are completely open.

Remove the mussels to your serving platter. Turn up the heat on the sauce until it bubbles. Let it bubble until it thickens slightly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Fold in the herbs. Pour the sauce over the mussels. Serve immediately.


I'm not sure they are really 'frites' since they are baked, not fried. But we'll go with it since that's the name of the traditional dish. My Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf painstakingly sliced the potatoes by hand so that they were "the perfect fry size!"

  • potatoes, washed, dried, and sliced into preferred fry size
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 2 T flour
  • 1 t salt
  • olive oil
  • Also needed: parchment-lined baking sheet

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl toss together the potatoes and fennel slices with olive oil to coat. Fold in salt and flour until well-coated. Place fries in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes. Turn fries over. Then roast for another 20 minutes. Frites are done when they are lightly browned and their outsides crisped.

Leave-the-Vampires-Alone Garlic Bread

Here we go with the 'garlic bread that Daddy likes.' As I was prepping this, I peeled three cloves of garlic. Then I remember the conversation and scaled it back to one clove. Yes, this entire loaf of bread only has one clove of garlic. Annnnnddd...I even finely minced it. Normally, I just crush them with my knife and use them pretty much whole. Funny: I didn't even taste the garlic and neither did my Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf. Jake and the Precise Kitchen Elf loved it. Ugh. The vampires were definitely not going to be kept at bay with this bread!

  • 1 small boule (we used a sourdough)
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely minced
  • 3 T butter, cold

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and place rack in the center of the oven. Sliced the boule diagonally into 1" diamond, taking care not to slice all the way through the loaf.

In a small mixing bowl, mash the garlic into the butter with the tines of a fork. Press the butter mixture into the slices in the bread. Place on a rimmed baking stone and bake for 15 minutes. Spread the slices apart a little bit so that the insides can toast and return it to the oven to another 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

I forgot to share that the boys picked flowers from the garden and put them on the table for me! So we had all of this food, champagne, and garden blooms. LOVE!

This dinner was a hit. Jake said, "The dishes separately are good. But it's when you put it all together that this dinner is great. Even 'red book-worthy.'" The Elves piped up, asking if we were auditioning plates for Thanksgiving. They wanted this one in the running. Alright...I haven't even started to think about our Thanksgiving menu. Now I am!


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