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
Test Kitchen Notes
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
2 to 4
freshest wild mussels
link Italian sausage with fennel
large bulbs fennel sliced thin, fronds reserved
large shallot, sliced thin
cloves garlic, sliced thin
fennel pollen, divided
red pepper flakes
half and half
saffron, in 2 tablespoons warm water
In This Recipe
Rinse and 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.
Remove sausage to a plate, 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 and 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 the half and 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.