Author Notes: I love this recipe. I had it on my menu a million years ago back when I had to special order fennel pollen by mail from the one farmer in California who sold it. It has stood the test of time and is so super delicious. There's fennel in all its guises, yet it is not overwhelmingly fennel-y.
You could sub arak or ouzo for the Pernod, but I would steer clear of anisette or sambuca (too sweet). - Aliwaks
Food52 Review: What a wonderful recipe -- rich in flavors and textures, and a great way to indulge a love of fennel! The recipe comes together easily; using a mandoline makes the prep work a breeze. I made this for company and did all the sautéing ahead of time, waiting until just the last minute to add the mussels and the finishing touches. The sauce is heavenly with just the right amount of fennel flavor and heat. The sausage tucks away and becomes a little treasure when discovered, complementing the caramelized fennel and mussels. Overall, a beautifully composed dish that is sure to delight anyone around your dinner table! - SwoonMySpoon
Serves 2 to 4
- 2 pounds freshest wild mussels
- 1 link Italian sausage with fennel
- 2 large bulbs fennel sliced thin, fronds reserved
- 1 large shallot, sliced thin
- 3 cloves garlic, sliced thin
- 1/2 cup Pernod
- 1 tablespoon fennel pollen, divided
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup half & half
- 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pinch saffron, in 2 tablespoons warm water
- Rinse & debeard mussels, discarding any that will not close. Refrigerate them in a bowl with ice and/or cold water.
- Remove the sausage casing. In a lidded pot big enough to hold the mussels, brown sausage in 1 tablespoon olive oil.
- Set sausage aside, leaving the fat in the pan. Add another tablespoon olive oil.
- Add fennel and shallots and sauté over medium heat until the fennel softens and begins to caramelize.
- Remove the fennel and shallots and set aside (with sausage).
- Add the remaining olive oil to the pot with the garlic, red pepper flakes & saffron. Sauté 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add Pernod and bring to a boil.
- Add rinsed mussels, cover pot, and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, shaking occasionally, until the mussels open.
- Add half & half, sausage, fennel, and half of the fennel pollen. Cook an additional 3 minutes, shaking the pot a few more times.
- To serve, sprinkle the mussels with the remaining fennel pollen and a handful of fennel fronds. An additional drizzle of olive is nice, too.
- Serve with crusty bread, lightly toasted and rubbed with garlic.