A few nights ago, just as I was opening a can of coconut milk to make fish curry, Chris came home with a giant net bag full of gorgeous PEI mussels. We love mussels. We also happened to have witbier. It wasn’t very hard to put two and two together – Belgian wit mussels with coconut milk was going to replace the original dinner plan.
One of the best known Belgian dishes is moules frites (mussels and fries) and a very common way of preparing it is using a Belgian witbier to create moules à la bière (mussels with beer).
Belgian wit is also known as Belgian white ale, Witbier or bière blanche (white beer). It is an ale brewed with unmalted wheat in addition to the malted barley. The wheat proteins (and the yeast typically used) cause the beer to appear whitish when cold, hence the name. Today craft brewers frequently add a small quantity of flaked oats to the grain bill to create more haze and a softer body.
Witbier was originally brewed using a gruit blend instead of hops which included coriander and dried bitter orange. It almost went extinct as a style after WW II when people were all about crisp and brilliant lagers. A well crafted wit features subtle spiciness, pleasant citrusy notes and mild herbal/perfumey notes. None of these should overpower the rest, rather a balanced bouquet is considered a sign of greatness.
We found that Millstream Brewing Co. John’s White Ale fit the bill perfectly. It is very refreshing (ABV 4.5% and IBU 10) with a crisp finish. We gladly gave up a bottle from our stash to steam the PEI mussels.
Witbier is a perfect partner to seafood as well as Thai curries and spicy food, fruit salsa and numerous deserts. I have to say that the way Chris prepared the mussels – combining the wit with coconut milk, garlic, shallots and ground coriander, created an absolutely delightful slurp-worthy broth. And slurp it we did.
While Chris was cooking the mussels I baked some fries (I know, I know, hard work). The original fries in moules frites are fried twice in order to be more crispy and I highly recommend that you try this method if you have time.
To dress up the fries, I simply dusted them with yellow curry powder mix once out of the oven – it made a huge difference and nicely complemented the coconut milk and Belgian wit mussels.
Chris used fresh basil and orange zest for extra fragrance and we happily paired our dinner with more of John’s White Ale. Pictures notwithstanding (white light lamp kind of situation, again:) the Belgian wit mussels with coconut milk and curried fries are now my new favorite way to prepare the mollusks!
Try the recipe and you will understand me. So grateful for Belgian wit. Cheers everyone!
Recipe for Belgian Wit Mussels with Coconut Milk
- 2 lbs fresh PEI mussels
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 shallots, minced
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 1 12 oz Belgian wit (Witbier)
- 1 can full fat coconut milk (or coconut cream)
- 1 bunch fresh basil
- zest of half an orange
- fries generously dusted with yellow curry powder (recommended) or substitute with fresh naan bread
- Clean and debeard the mussels, discard any open ones.
- In a large, deep saute pan (must have a lid) heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat.
- Add the garlic and shallots, stir, add the coriander and stir again.
- Add the beer, then the coconut milk and stir to combine. Let sauce simmer and reduce a little bit.
- Add all the mussels, stir to coat them with the sauce and cover with the lid. Cook until all the mussels have opened.
- Immediately transfer the mussels to a deep serving platter (to share) or individual bowls, pour the sauce over them and generously garnish with basil and orange zest.
- Serve with curried fries (or fresh naan) and pair with Belgian wit. Slurp any leftover sauce. Brag to your craft beer loving friends.
Shared on What’s Cooking Wednesday.