These Fancy-Feeling Moules Frites Take Less Than 30 Minutes to Make

With an aromatic broth for sopping up with fries or chunks of bread, these briny little mussels make even the most mundane weeknight feel like a night out at a bistro.

Mussles in a grey Staub Dutch oven and a side of fries.
Serious Eats / Jen Causey

Since welcoming our first child in August, my husband and I have relied on the fastest, easiest, bang-for-your-buck meals because, as any new parent will tell you, we’re exhausted. A meal that ticks all of these boxes? Moules frites, a Belgian meal of steamed mussels served alongside French fries and mayonnaise. It’s an affordable, delicious dinner that takes about 30 minutes from start to finish, and with an aromatic broth for sopping up with fries or chunks of bread, these briny little mussels make even the most mundane weeknight feel like a night out at a local bistro.

Like many iconic dishes, the origins of moules frites are slightly murky. Though Flemish people have long enjoyed mussels on their own, often as a cheaper alternative to fish, it wasn’t until the 1800s that cooks began pairing the mollusc with French fries. According to reporter Lukas Taylor, it was the widow of a man named Frédéric Krieger (who ran a “friterie,” a restaurant specializing in fries and fast food) who came up with the idea to sell mussels and fries together. When Brussels hosted the World’s Fair in 1958, numerous vendors sold moules frites, “solidifying its reputation as Belgium’s go-to meal in the eyes of the world,” Taylor writes for The Brussels Times. Today, the dish is a staple on bistro and tavern menus around the world—and with just a few tips and tricks, you can easily make a delicious version of it at home.

How to Store and Prep Mussels for Cooking

If you need to remember one thing about purchasing and storing mussels, it’s the fresher, the better. Look for live mussels that are tightly shut, glistening, and stored on ice. Once dead, their shells open and they’re prone to spoilage; to check if your mussels are alive, tap them lightly with another mussel. If the mollusc doesn’t close, it’s dead to you—and your meal—and should be disposed of. And when in doubt, always trust your nose. Fresh mussels shouldn’t smell fishy or have any kind of strong odor. Not to sound too idyllic, but they should smell like the fresh ocean breeze. To keep mussels as fresh as possible, refrigerate them in a bowl placed on top of ice and keep them covered with a damp towel. This not only keeps the mussels cool, but will help them retain moisture.

The peskiest part of preparing wild mussels is freeing them of debris. Most grocery stores, however, source farm-raised mussels that grow on vertical ropes. Unlike wild mussels, these arrive quite clean. As Kenji mentioned in his guide on cleaning and debearding mussels, “farm-raised mussels are held in tanks prior to packaging and shipping, which means that the purging step—soaking the mussels in clean water until they spit out impurities—has already been done for you.” 

You’ll still want to give them a quick rinse and scrub; simply place the shellfish in a large bowl or colander and run them under cold water, using your hands or a brush to lightly scour and rid the mussels of any dirt. Though it’s unlikely farm-raised mussels will still have their beard—the stringy fibers that grow along the lip of the mollusc and help them anchor themselves to ropes and rocks—if any remain, you can easily remove them by pulling them firmly towards the hinge of the mussel.

Mussels in a grey Dutch oven with a side of fries.
Serious Eats / Jen Causey

French Fries: Fresh or Frozen?

There’s a time and place for fresh homemade fries, but a low-lift weeknight meal is not it. Please be assured that even Serious Eats editors—this tired mom, anyway!—will reach for frozen fries when the occasion calls for it. If you have the energy to make fries from scratch, great! And if not, that’s also okay! There are plenty of good options in the frozen aisle at the store, and you can heat them up in the oven or your air fryer. Really, whatever is easiest for you. My only piece of advice? Season them well, because nobody wants to eat bland potatoes. 

If you do go the homemade route and are looking to recreate the traditional bistro experience, you’ll probably want thin, crispy fries. But if you’re like me and prefer slightly skinnier fries, Sho’s shoestring ones are the way to go.

How to Prepare Moules Frites

Moules frites are extraordinarily simple to make, and much of the dish’s flavor comes from the shellfish itself. But there are a few ways we can enhance this simple meal, namely by sweating the aromatics, using a little wine, and utilizing the mussels’ juices in the sauce. 

The most arduous part of the cooking process is the time it takes to sauté the shallots and garlic. When raw, both the alliums can have a harsh, pungent flavor. It’s worth slowly cooking them in butter for a few extra minutes. As the vegetables soften, they will begin to develop a pleasant, mellow sweetness that’ll complement the brininess of the mussels. Just make sure to keep an eye on the vegetables to avoid browning; the goal is to sauté them as gently as possible. 

Once the shallots and garlic have softened, add a splash of dry white wine to the pot—while also pouring yourself a glass, of course—and reduce it for several minutes. This helps to not only cook off the alcohol, but it also concentrates the wine’s sugars and adds body to the sauce. It’s the last step for the sauce before the mussels go in, and once they do, you’re just five minutes out from having dinner on the table. Give the mussels a good shake and let them steam; as the mussels cook, they’ll release their juices into the sauce, lending it a savory depth of flavor. A touch of fresh lemon zest and juice brings it all together, and that’s all there is to it. It’s a lot of flavor for not a lot of effort. See: the best kind of dinner.

A close-up of mussels.
Serious Eats / Jen Causey

In a 6- to 8-quart Dutch oven or large pot set over medium-low heat, melt butter. Add shallots and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until very softened but not browned, 8 to 10 minutes.

Cooking shallots and garlic in a grey Staub Dutch oven.
Serious Eats / Jen Causey

Increase heat to high, add wine, salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half, about 4 minutes. Stir in mussels; cover and cook over high, shaking and tossing the pot at 1 minute intervals, until mussels are opened, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat (see notes); stir in lemon zest and juice and parsley. Serve with French fries and mayonnaise.

Four images showing the process of making moules frites.
Serious Eats / Jen Causey

Special Equipment

6- to 8-quart Dutch oven or large pot

Notes

If mussels are gritty or have lots of beards, scrub them well under cold water and pull out beards by grabbing them and pulling towards the hinge-end of the mussels. Discard cracked or open mussels that don’t close when tapped with another mussel.

Discard any mussels that remain unopened after cooking.

To toss the mussels in the pot, use your thumbs to secure the lid, and toss the pot up and down a couple of times to allow mussels on top to settle towards the base of the pan.

This Cake Is Basically a Giant Eclair and It’s All I Want

Super-size your éclair for a creamy, chocolatey dessert that’s sure to impress.

Overhead view of Eclair Paris brest slices
Serious Eats / Jen Causey

If I could eat an éclair every day, I’d be a very happy woman. Unfortunately, I do not live in France, nor I am not located near a French bakery—and I most certainly do not have the time or energy to make éclairs frequently at home. I reserve éclairs for special occasions, and even then it’s hard to convince myself it’s worth piping, baking, filling, and glazing an entire tray of little fingers of choux pastry. The good news is that there are two different ways of making large-format éclair cakes that evoke the original without prompting your carpal tunnel to flare up.

Overhead view of eclair paris brest
Serious Eats / Jen Causey

How to Make a Classic Éclair Cake

A classic éclair is a refined confection of golden choux filled with pastry cream and glazed with chocolate, but the thing most people think of when they hear "éclair cake" is decidedly less formal: An icebox cake in which graham crackers are layered with boxed pudding mix, refrigerated until softened, then topped with store-bought chocolate frosting.

That's all well and good, and we appreciate an easy dessert that can feed a crowd while requiring literally no investment of time or skill to whip together. But if you need a recipe to explain how to fill a baking dish with boxed pudding, boxed crackers, and boxed frosting, then we've got a really great recipe for boiling water to show you next! No, this is Serious Eats, so we're not gonna do that. We're gonna be just a little more ambitious—just enough to transform something extremely ho-hum into something still relatively easy but significantly more delicious.

Side view of eclair cake
Serious Eats / Jen Causey

Instead of instant pudding, we are using an airy mixture of whipped cream and vanilla-bean infused pastry cream. To sound fancy, we could use the French terms "crème pâtissière" for the pastry cream and "crème légère" for the mixture of the pastry cream with the whipped cream, but in the spirit of this shamelessly Americanized dessert, we'll stick with the English here, thank you very much, mon frère.

For those who came here expecting boxed pudding mix, don't run away just yet! We promise, pastry cream may sound like the kind of thing that requires a culinary school degree to make, but it's so simple, and so, so much better. You can do it, and now's the time.

Overhead view of eclair cake
Serious Eats / Jen Causey

As for the chocolate, we skip the ready-made frosting and opt for a simple semi-sweet ganache instead, which brings a pleasant bitterness that balances the dessert. "Ganache" is another word that may send some running to the nearest aisle of Betty Crocker (no hate, no hate), but please stay. If you can heat butter and cream and pour it over dark chocolate, you can make ganache. (In fact, if you do that, you will have, by definition, made ganache. It's easy, I promise.)

The graham crackers remain the graham crackers: We get it, the brilliant ease of this recipe is that there's no baking involved, and we're staying true to that.

How to Make What Is, Essentially, a Giant Éclair

Okay, but this is Serious Eats, and you don't think we're just gonna pump out a slightly jazzed-up recipe for an éclair cake and call it a day, did you? It's called an éclair cake, and last we checked, the defining element of an éclair is that it's made from choux pastry. So we asked a simple question: Can we super-size it?

And yes, yes we can. This is the show-stopper version, and it is designed to impress.

Taking our inspiration from the classic Paris-Brest, in which choux is baked in a large ring and then filled with praline cream, this version fills the ring with vanilla crème mousseline and is then topped with a glossy chocolate glaze.

Side view of Eclair Paris Brest
Serious Eats / Jen Causey

This version of the recipe is, without question, more complicated. But let's look at the facts: First, it's still easier than making traditional éclairs, since one large choux pastry ring is easier to pipe and bake than many individual choux fingers. Second, we've already made the choux part of the process easier for you with the help of science. Instead of the vague instructions in most recipes, we use precise temperatures that you can easily measure with a thermometer for perfect choux every time, no guesswork involved.

As with the American éclair cake recipe described above, pastry cream once again has a starring role here, this time in the form of crème mousseline, or what I like to call fancy buttercream: Instead of beating butter with powdered sugar to make buttercream, we beat pastry cream into the butter. Whipped until light and fluffy, the filling’s velvety texture complements the crisp, airy choux.

Overhead view of piping cream into choux
Serious Eats / Jen Causey

Last but not least, there’s an easy chocolate glaze of butter, corn syrup, and semi-sweet chocolate that comes together in one bowl with the help of the microwave. The dessert tastes just like an éclair, except you can cut it in big, hulking slices to serve to friends or, let's be honest, keep it all to yourself because that's the real spirit of an Americanized dessert: Making it big and then eating too much.

No matter which version you decide to make, the important thing to remember is: There’s a confection for every occasion, even if the occasion is sitting on your couch alone with a giant éclair cake.

Easy Éclair Cake

Place about 7 of the graham cracker sheets in an even layer in a 9- by 13- inch baking dish, breaking up crackers as needed to fill space; set aside.

Overhead view of graham crackers in a baking dish
Serious Eats / Jen Causey

In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, vanilla, and 1 1/2 cups of the heavy cream until stiff peaks form, about 5 minutes. (See notes.) Place pastry cream in a large bowl, and, using a rubber spatula, gently fold whipped cream into pastry cream until just combined. Using an offset spatula, spread half of the pastry cream mixture (about 18 ounces; 510g) in an even layer over graham crackers. Place about 8 of the graham cracker sheets in an even layer over pastry cream mixture, breaking up crackers as needed to fill space. Using the offset spatula, top with remaining half of pastry cream mixture in an even layer. Place remaining 9 graham cracker sheets in an even layer, breaking up crackers as needed to fill space. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until pudding is set, about 1 hour.

4 image collage of combining pastry cream and layering with graham crackers
Serious Eats / Jen Causey

Place chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl; set aside. In a small saucepan set over medium-high heat, bring butter and remaining 1 cup cream to a gentle simmer, stirring constantly, until it begins to bubble around the edges, about 4 minutes. Pour over chocolate (do not stir); let stand for 10 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, gently stir together until smooth, about 1 minute. Remove cake from refrigerator. Pour chocolate mixture over top of set cake, using an offset spatula to spread ganache into an even layer. Re-cover with plastic wrap, making sure it doesn’t touch the surface of the chocolate, and refrigerate until set and graham crackers are softened, at least 2 hours or up to 12 hours.

4 image collage of melting chocolate and layering over graham crackers
Serious Eats / Jen Causey

Special Equipment

9- by 13- inch baking dish, rubber spatula, offset spatula, medium heatproof bowl

Notes

If whipping cream with a stand mixer: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine sugar, vanilla, and 1 1/2 cups heavy cream. Whisk on low speed until sugar is fully dissolved, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium-high. Continue to whisk until stiff peaks form, about 1 minute 10 seconds.

Éclair Paris Brest

Prepare the Choux: Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 425°F (220ºC). Using a pen or pencil, trace an 8-inch circle in the center of a 12- by 16-inch sheet of parchment paper. Flip parchment over so that drawn ring is on underside and set on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Pipe a small amount of choux dough under each corner of parchment paper lining baking sheet (dough acts as a glue and keeps paper in place as you pipe).

Overhead view of piping choux into sheet tray
Serious Eats / Jen Causey

Holding filled pastry bag at a 90 degree angle, about 1-inch away from parchment paper, apply steady pressure and slowly pipe ring of choux along traced circle. To stop piping, cease applying pressure and swirl pastry tip away from piped ring. Pipe a second ring of choux just inside first ring, making sure that the two rings are touching one another. Pipe a third, final ring of choux on top of, and nestling in the groove between, the two piped rings. To smooth out surface of dough, dip a finger into additional cold water and gently pat down any bumps as needed.

Four image collage of pipping choux ring
Serious Eats / Jen Causey

In a small bowl, whisk together egg and 1 tablespoon water until smooth. Using a pastry brush, gently brush choux rings with egg wash. Bake in preheated oven until choux is puffed and light golden brown, about 15 minutes. Without opening the oven door, reduce oven temperature to 350°F (175ºC). Bake until deep golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Turn off oven, partially open door, and let choux stand in turned-off oven for 30 minutes to allow pastry to dry and fully set. Remove from oven and let cool completely, about 15 minutes.

Two image collage of putting eggwash on choux and choux ring cooling after being baked
Serious Eats / Jen Causey

While choux is cooling in oven, prepare the Crème Mousseline: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter on medium speed until fluffy and light, about 5 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down bowl and beater. With mixer on medium speed, add pastry cream a few tablespoons at a time, pausing to scrape down bowl and paddle as needed, until thoroughly incorporated, about 1 minute. Switch to whisk attachment and whip mixture on medium speed until Crème Mousseline is soft and airy, about 3 minutes. Transfer Crème Mousseline to a pastry bag fitted with a 3/4-inch star tip; refrigerate until ready to use.

Overhead view of tranfering cream to pipping bag
Serious Eats / Jen Causey

Transfer cooled choux ring to a large cutting board. Using a serrated knife, cut choux ring in half horizontally. Carefully lift top off and place on a wire rack set inside a large, rimmed baking sheet; set aside.

Overhead view of cutting choux pastry in half
Serious Eats / Jen Causey

Prepare the Chocolate Glaze: Place chocolate, butter, corn syrup, and salt in a medium-size, microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high power in 15 second increments, stirring after each increment, until chocolate is melted and mixture is completely smooth, about 1 minute total. Gently pour over top choux ring in an even layer. Allow glaze to set, at room temperature, about 45 minutes.

Overhead view of pouring chocolate over choux
Serious Eats / Jen Causey

Pipe Crème Mousseline in even rosettes about 1 1/2-inch-high onto cut side of bottom half of choux ring, making sure to apply steady pressure while piping. Place glazed top half of choux ring over piped filling. Using a serrated knife, lice into portions, and serve.

Two image collage of piping cream on inside choux and placing top
Serious Eats / Jen Causey

Special Equipment

Parchment paper, rimmed baking sheet, pastry bag, 3/4-inch star tip, pastry brush, whisk, wire rack, stand mixer, serrated knife

Make Ahead and Storage

The choux can be made up to 2 hours before using; keep at room temperature in a sealed pastry bag or with plastic pressed against its surface to prevent a skin from forming.

The pastry cream can be stored in an airtight container, with plastic wrap or buttered parchment placed directly on the surface, and refrigerated for up to 3 days.


The finished pastry should be enjoyed immediately.