Mussels for One (or Two)

By • December 6, 2009 • 56 Comments

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Author Notes: I learned to love mussels in college, when I spent many an evening with my beau at the Cadieux Café, located on the east side of Detroit where I grew up. The place had an amazing juke box and a stellar array of Belgian beers, and it served mussels in a multitude of ways: stuffed, steamed, on the half shell, or bathed in flavorful broths, there was a preparation for just about anyone. I love mussels to this day and indulge in them often, as they’re inexpensive, sustainable, and versatile, but this is probably my favorite way to eat them. The rule of thumb for an entrée portion of mussels is one pound per person, but I never seem to be able to finish a whole pound on my own – especially when you factor in the crusty bread that is an essential accompaniment to this dish. Your mileage may vary. - lastnightsdinnerlastnightsdinner

Food52 Review: Here you have all the flavors that go so well with mussels -- fennel, saffron, thyme, tomatoes, vermouth, and of course (something we love!), Pernod. You do a little chopping, then add the ingredients a few at a time to the pot. In a few short minutes, you have a fragrant and delicious mussel stew, a dinner-for-one that underlines the importance of treating yourself well, even when alone. And you can quadruple the recipe for a party. - A&MA&M

Serves 1-2

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1.5 cups leek, sliced into thin half-moons, white and pale green parts only
  • 1 small bulb fennel, cored and chopped or thinly sliced (about 1 cup), plus a few fronds for garnish
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • 1-2 pinch saffron threads
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 (or more, if you're solo) fat cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) Pernod or other anise liqueur
  • 4 ounces (1/2 cup) white vermouth or dry white wine
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes with juice
  • 1 pound mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  1. Look over your mussels and discard any that have cracked or broken shells. They all should be tightly closed, but if any open mussels don't close when you squeeze them gently with your fingers, discard those as well.
  2. Melt the butter in the olive oil in a deep, heavy-bottomed pot with a lid over medium heat.
  3. Add the leek and fennel, season with a pinch or two of salt, and cook until softened.
  4. Clear a space in the bottom of the pot and add the saffron, crumbling it with your fingers as you do, and lightly toast it before stirring it through the vegetables. Add the garlic and thyme, stir, and cook just until you can smell the garlic.
  5. Add the Pernod and vermouth or white wine, stir, and let cook for 2-3 minutes before adding the tomatoes. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer for 20-25 minutes.
  6. Add the mussels, stir, re-cover the pot, and cook for another 5-8 minutes or so, just until the mussels open (the timing will vary depending on the size of your mussels). Discard any mussels that don’t open.
  7. Stir the cream in off the heat, taste for seasoning, then spoon the mussels, vegetables, and sauce into a big, wide bowl – two, if you’re sharing. Sprinkle the fennel fronds on top, and serve with plenty of crusty bread.
Jump to Comments (56)

Tags: Easy, One-Pot Wonders, seafood

Comments (56) Questions (3)

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11 months ago h_philli

Would this be good over linguine or is it too soupy?

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almost 2 years ago Musebe

This was a beautiful dish! Thank you so much for sharing.

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over 2 years ago Scribbles

I prepared this for dinner last night and it was very yummy! We had a crusty baguette and a bottle of french rose wine - very nice meal. Thanks for the entry!

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almost 3 years ago Brenzo

Made this for supper tonight--was great!! My hubby and I really enjoyed.
Thanks!

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almost 3 years ago ThrillaVanilla

I made this and savored it all by myself with a large glass of pinot grigio... let me tell you.......WOW! The flavors were just meant to be, the fennel, the tomato, the cream, the saffron, and the crusty bread (a must!) plus I had no Pernod but my Ouzo did the trick just fine. In a word this dish is ~~~SEXY~~~. Thanks lastnightsdinner for a fine meal.

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about 3 years ago jas53

I have made this three times now, and neither I nor my guests can get enough of it. Thanks so much for sharing!

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about 3 years ago Auntie M & M

Another fantastic meal from food 52! Thanks to all who post wonderful recipes and to you LND, always yummy!

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about 3 years ago lastnightsdinner

Thanks! So glad you enjoyed it!

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over 3 years ago sarah k.

At the market today, I couldn't pass up buying some mussels for the first time, after reading this recipe. Unfortunately, I didn't remember all the ingredients, so I'm here at home, sort of improvising without the leeks, fennel, or Pernod. I hope that doesn't completely ruin it! I've used regular onions, celery, and some actual anise seed. Next time, I'll be ready!

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almost 4 years ago olin77

I made this dish for my best friend and wife last night. When we ran out of Sulivan Street Bakery bread to sop up the creamy goodness, a chorus of slurping ensued. The sign of a fundamentally great dish: it has been lingering on the mind all morning...

Well done, lastnightsdinner.

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almost 4 years ago lastnightsdinner

Wow, thanks - so glad you enjoyed it! And I do miss Sullivan Street Bakery bread... yum!

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about 4 years ago annalea

Made this tonight - tried to share, but ended up enjoying most of it myself. Excellent!

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almost 4 years ago lastnightsdinner

Thank you!

Mrs._larkin_370

over 4 years ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

Made these today. Simple recipe, delicious results! The sauce is so tasty - even without the cream. Definitely a keeper, this one.

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over 4 years ago lastnightsdinner

Whoo hoo! I am so glad you liked them!

Pict0051

over 4 years ago Annelle

Absolutely wonderful! Congrats!!

Steve_dunn02

over 4 years ago Oui, Chef

This makes it a hat-trick, yes? Well done, and congratulations!

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over 4 years ago lastnightsdinner

It does, and thank you! And ironic that I win a "home alone" challenge just as my husband is ready to embark on a new career path, making our schedules totally opposite! Great for him, and I'm so proud but I'm looking at many solo dinners in my future!

Winnie100

over 4 years ago WinnieAb

Congrats Jenn!

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over 4 years ago lastnightsdinner

Thank you!

Zester_003

over 4 years ago pierino

pierino is a trusted source on General Cooking and Tough Love.

Congratulations! But I hope to overcome your formidable talents in the offal people challenge.

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over 4 years ago lastnightsdinner

Thank you! If ever there was a challenge tailor made for a pierino win, it's the nose-to-tail one ;D

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over 4 years ago Maria Teresa Jorge

Congratulations!

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over 4 years ago lastnightsdinner

Thank you so much!

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over 4 years ago dymnyno

CONGRATULATIONS!!

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over 4 years ago lastnightsdinner

Thank you!

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over 4 years ago dymnyno

With the exception of the saffron this is very similar to the one I make all the time...one of my favorites! Maybe I will try adding the saffron next time.

Steve_dunn02

over 4 years ago Oui, Chef

I never really cared for mussels much until I tried them in France while living there for a few years, now I can't get enough of them. This dish has all the classic flavors that I enjoyed with them there, I can't wait to try it!

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over 4 years ago lastnightsdinner

Thanks, and I hope you enjoy it!

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over 4 years ago Amber Olson

My husband came home yesterday with 5 pounds of mussels so I called the neighbors (great friends) and we had a feast! Quadrupling all the ingredients just didn't feel right, especially the Pernod which can be overpowering, so I made a stock from the fennel and leek trimmings and used that with some vermouth and 2 TB Pernod to create a little more broth to share.Fennel vegie love! Used all the butter, though, and half the olive oil. Truly delicious recipe! Thanks bunches.

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over 4 years ago lastnightsdinner

Thank you! I'm so glad you enjoyed it!

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over 4 years ago Jennifer Ann

What a luscious dinner I had last night! Thanks so much for sharing this recipe.

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over 4 years ago lastnightsdinner

You're welcome! I'm so glad you liked it!

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over 4 years ago Savour

Mussels are great home alone food-- my husband hates them for some reason.

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over 4 years ago lastnightsdinner

That just means you don't have to share, right ;D

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over 4 years ago lastnightsdinner

Thanks, Kelsey and arielleclementine!

And do I spy an "old English D" on that wine glass in the background? :D

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over 4 years ago KelseyTheNaptimeChef

Yes another great recipe form lastnightsdinnr! Mussels are a great idea for a one person meal, I love the addition of saffron, too.

Henrykiss

over 4 years ago arielleclementine

beautiful recipe :)

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over 4 years ago lastnightsdinner

Whoa, thanks, everyone!

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over 4 years ago mariaraynal

Beautiful recipe. Great flavors and techniques. As a side note: Tony Bourdain ate at the Cadieux Cafe when he visited Detroit for No Reservations. And I live nearby!

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over 4 years ago adashofbitters

Jen was extremely excited to see Cadieux on No Res. The place looks supremely cool.

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over 4 years ago lastnightsdinner

Maria, I've never had the chance to take Mike to Cadieux when we've been visiting, but next time we're in town, we'll have to make a date with you for mussels and feather bowling :D

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over 4 years ago mariaraynal

We'd love that! Funny thing is, I've never been there. I'm probably the only person in town...

Winnie100

over 4 years ago WinnieAb

Love mussels but have never made them at home. Thanks for another fantastic recipe LND!

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over 4 years ago PhoebeLapine

This looks so yum! mussels are a great one pot meal for one--and my favorite thing to eat!

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over 4 years ago TheWimpyVegetarian

I make a big pot of bouillabaise every Christmas Eve and it's very similar to this recipe with homemade bread and a big salad. I love it!

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over 4 years ago lastnightsdinner

Thanks! My husband and I love bouillabaisse, but even when we try to scale it down, we always end up with far too much for two! So this is a nice way to get those flavors in a solo dinner.

Mrs._larkin_370

over 4 years ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

Looks so good! (Wish my pc had smellavision capability.)

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over 4 years ago lastnightsdinner

Thank you! The aromatics do make it very... aromatic :D

Deena_cooking

over 4 years ago deensiebat

my boyfriend is lactose intolerant, and not a huge fan of mussels (plus has recently requested that maybe we not have saffron in nearly every dish). this is most definitely going to be my meal-for-one when he's out of town next week..

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over 4 years ago lastnightsdinner

Let me know how you like it!

Deena_cooking

over 4 years ago deensiebat

my friend proposed having a girls' night in around her fireplace, so i made the veg prep up to the point of mussels, wrapped up my half loaf of crusty bread, filled a jar with a bit of milk (we didn't have cream), picked up a meshy bag of mussels en route, and arrived at her house. only to find that the mussels were bad! really bad! like all dead and open! ah well. i left the jar of sauteed deliciousness at her house for her to try again tomorrow, which come to think of it would be a pretty awesome present for anyone. i didn't have pernod, and threw in a bit of orange zest instead, but otherwise followed the recipe pretty much exactly. smelled heavenly.

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over 4 years ago at the farmers market

This is the way to treat yourself to a solo meal. Looks delicious!

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over 4 years ago lastnightsdinner

Thanks! And we are lucky to have a wonderful shellfish purveyor at our local farmers' market :)

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over 4 years ago Rhonda35

This sounds like mussels bouillabaise - with the saffron, fennel and Pernod - I can taste it already - delicious! It looks so pretty, too. This would be just as nice for company as it is for eating alone. :-)

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over 4 years ago lastnightsdinner

Thanks! It's definitely inspired by bouillabaisse - those are some of my favorite flavors, particularly in combination :)