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. - lastnightsdinner —lastnightsdinner
Test Kitchen Notes
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&M —The Editors
- Serves 1-2
extra-virgin olive oil
leek, sliced into thin half-moons, white and pale green parts only
small bulb fennel, cored and chopped or thinly sliced (about 1 cup), plus a few fronds for garnish
Kosher or sea salt
fresh thyme leaves
(or more, if you're solo) fat cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
(1 tablespoon) Pernod or other anise liqueur
(1/2 cup) white vermouth or dry white wine
crushed tomatoes with juice
mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded
- 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.
- Melt the butter in the olive oil in a deep, heavy-bottomed pot with a lid over medium heat.
- Add the leek and fennel, season with a pinch or two of salt, and cook until softened.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.