Cooking for One

Mussels for One (or Two)

December  6, 2009
2 Ratings
  • Serves 1-2
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. - 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

What You'll Need
  • 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 pinches 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.
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59 Reviews

Rochelle October 7, 2018
!These are the best mussels I have ever had.... anywhere !
Thank you LND for a new fave.
Debbie February 14, 2018
I make this over and over and over.....great with shrimp too!
keg72 March 2, 2015
Excellent flavors. I found that it needed a good bit of salt to sharpen the flavors, but that was easily done. You definitely want to have a lot of good bread on-hand for soaking up the sauce!
h_philli November 14, 2013
Would this be good over linguine or is it too soupy?
Musebe October 1, 2012
This was a beautiful dish! Thank you so much for sharing.
Scribbles February 25, 2012
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!
Brenzo December 10, 2011
Made this for supper tonight--was great!! My hubby and I really enjoyed.
ThrillaVanilla October 12, 2011
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.
jas53 September 16, 2011
I have made this three times now, and neither I nor my guests can get enough of it. Thanks so much for sharing!
Auntie M. August 2, 2011
Another fantastic meal from food 52! Thanks to all who post wonderful recipes and to you LND, always yummy!
lastnightsdinner August 3, 2011
Thanks! So glad you enjoyed it!
sarah K. April 8, 2011
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!
olin77 November 2, 2010
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.
lastnightsdinner November 2, 2010
Wow, thanks - so glad you enjoyed it! And I do miss Sullivan Street Bakery bread... yum!
annalea September 20, 2010
Made this tonight - tried to share, but ended up enjoying most of it myself. Excellent!
lastnightsdinner November 2, 2010
Thank you!
mrslarkin May 22, 2010
Made these today. Simple recipe, delicious results! The sauce is so tasty - even without the cream. Definitely a keeper, this one.
lastnightsdinner May 22, 2010
Whoo hoo! I am so glad you liked them!
Annelle January 28, 2010
Absolutely wonderful! Congrats!!
Oui, C. January 27, 2010
This makes it a hat-trick, yes? Well done, and congratulations!
lastnightsdinner January 27, 2010
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!
WinnieAb January 27, 2010
Congrats Jenn!
lastnightsdinner January 27, 2010
Thank you!
pierino January 27, 2010
Congratulations! But I hope to overcome your formidable talents in the offal people challenge.
lastnightsdinner January 27, 2010
Thank you! If ever there was a challenge tailor made for a pierino win, it's the nose-to-tail one ;D
Maria T. January 27, 2010
lastnightsdinner January 27, 2010
Thank you so much!
dymnyno January 27, 2010
lastnightsdinner January 27, 2010
Thank you!