Notes: These mussels were inspired by a dish prepared at Château Loudenne in the Bordeaux region of France, served near the big stone fireplace in the cozy harvesters' dining room. This version carries all the comfort of France's traditional mussels and frites (fries).
Sunset JANUARY 2002
1. Coat a 10- by 15-inch pan generously with cooking oil spray. Peel potatoes and cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick sticks. In pan, mix potatoes with 1/2 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon paprika, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper; mix and spread level. Bake in a 450 degree regular or convection oven, turning occasionally with a wide spatula, until potatoes are crisp and browned on the outside and tender to bite on the inside, 25 to 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a 4- to 5-quart pan over high heat, stir onion, carrots, celery, thyme, curry powder, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon paprika in remaining 1/2 tablespoon olive oil until vegetables are limp, about 5 minutes. Add wine and tomatoes and their juices; boil, stirring occasionally, to blend flavors, about 5 minutes. Stir in crème fraîche and season to taste with salt and pepper.
3. Discard any gaping mussels that don't close when you tap their shells. Add mussels to pan; cover and cook until shells pop open, 8 to 10 minutes.
4. Ladle mussels and broth into wide bowls. Serve with oven frites.
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