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Pommes Frites with Mussels

Greg Atkinson, Restaurant Marché, Bainbridge Island, Washington / May 2012

For 6 servings

Pommes frites:
• rice bran oil (for frying)
• 5 lb. lg. Russet potatoes, peeled, cut lengthwise into 3/8"-thick slices, then into 3/8" bâtons, and held in water

  1. Heat oil in deep fryer to 325°F.

  2. Drain potatoes; pat completely dry with paper towels; working in batches to avoid overcrowding, fry potatoes, stirring to distribute evenly, until light brown (4 to 5 minutes); remove with a spider; place on wire rack on baking sheet; cool; reserve.

Assembly:
• 1/2 cup Pernod
• 2 cups heavy cream
• 1 bulb fennel, trimmed, halved lengthwise, sliced into 1/4" rounds, plus a few fronds for garnishing
• 3 to 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
• 2 lbs. mussels, rinsed and debearded
• rice bran oil (for frying)
• 1/4 cup potato starch
• fine sea salt (for serving)
• fines herbes (for serving)

  1. Bring Pernod to a boil in large nonreactive saucepan; cook until pan is almost dry; add cream; bring to a boil; cook until reduced by 50 percent; add fennel slices and garlic; bring to a boil; add mussels; cover with a lid; cook until mussels open; discard any mussels that do not open; remove mussels from heat; reserve (keep warm).

  2. Heat oil in deep fryer to 375°F.

  3. Sprinkle reserved potatoes with starch; working in batches, fry until golden brown and crispy (about 4 minutes); remove with a spider; place on baking sheets lined with several sheets of paper towels to drain; combine salt and fines herbes in a bowl; add hot pommes frites in batches; toss to coat.

  4. To serve, place pommes frites on small plates; divide mussels and cooking sauce among serving bowls; garnish with fennel fronds.

What to drink: Domaine de la Bérangeraie Cahors Southwest France 2008
Chef’s Note: Choose potatoes with large open cell structure and high starch content. Sprinkling potatoes with starch helps fries crisp.