Although artsdevivre entries have been embarrassingly few and far between these past months, I do still think about this little space all the time. I’ll spare the apologies of an overwhelming schedule and stress and just tell you I’m happy to be back. Oh yes, and of course, I recognize the glaring cliché of this entry coinciding with 2011’s arrival.

Not surprisingly, this past holiday season flew by in the blink of an eye, and I’m finding it hard to believe tomorrow is back to the grindstone. I’m sure those of you who were lucky enough to get some time off are right there with me. Those of you who were not I feel confident are rolling your eyes and telling me to simultaneously stop my whining and start counting my blessings.

Before I got off-track last summer with, er, reading books and sleeping late, artsdevivre had changed its focus from every-day beauty to city living and all that it can offer. Although I now reside in the ‘burbs, whenever I’m in town I remember to keep all my senses peeled to fun city living perks as well as city-inspired activities.

Not surprisingly, a lot of my holiday consisted of eating good food and drinking wine. Family parties and friend get-togethers have a way of lending themselves to both. It was fun, but I’m ready for the annual guilt fast of which January consists.

But before I begin the “fast”, I want to tell you about a simple and fun recipe for the holidays, borne out of my recent introduction between DPE and the French (or Belgian depending on your point of view) meal of mussels and French fries or moule-frîtes. I became familiar with it in my student days when I ate at the affordable and tasty chain Léon de Bruxelles, ubiquitous in Paris at least, if not all over France. For just over 10 euros, one can eat all the mussels and French fries one’s tummy will permit.

When I explained the concept to DPE, he was immediately smitten with the idea, as he loves both seafood and anything he can cook in his frier. Per DPE’s suggestion one day before break, I picked up some mussels from the fishmonger around the corner. To my amazement, DPE perfected the most amazing coconut-curry broth that evening to serve them with. Now, I’m not an exacting type of cook (which is why it’s hard for me to duplicate recipes), but following is a list approximately of what DPE and I (the resident sous-chef) did. It was so yummy that we served it again recently as an appetizer for a dinner gathering chez nous, and plan to duplicate the experience with varied types of broth. Oh and the best part of moule-frîtes for dinner is it’s cheap. They only run $3.99 a pound in our parts.

When we fixed it last week, I picked up about 3 pounds of the little guys, which was more than enough for 10 people to munch on prior to dinner. DPE simmered organic chicken stock, coconut milk, white cooking wine, fresh garlic and ginger, sliced onions and diced bacon. Then he added in the mussels to let them steam in the coconut-y goodness and about 10 minutes later: voilà ! The mussels had obediently opened.

It was fun to watch our guests eat one of my favorite French meals, and DPE graciously accepted the many compliments thrown his way over the broth’s perfection. We opted for a crunchy baguette instead of French fries since it was just an appetizer, but plan on using the frier next time to reproduce my many trips to Léon in the City of Light right here in the City of Charm.

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