One-Pot Wonders

Mussels in Arak

February 13, 2011
0 Ratings
  • Serves 2
Author Notes

If you live in Israel, then chances are you have a bottle (or three) of arak lying around. And, if you’re like me, you don’t reach for it all that often. Similar to other anise-flavored spirits like Greek ouzo, French pastis, Turkish raki and Italian sambucco, arak is often consumed in shot form or sipped as an aperitif. It gets its nickname, the Milk of Lions, because a splash of water turns the liquid from clear to milky white and mellows the flavor slightly.

I’ve often thought about cooking with arak, but had yet to find the right application. As soon as I saw mussels in my local Russian market I knew I would cook them in arak. And so this recipe was born. It turned out beautifully.

As much as I love the meaty mussels, my favorite part is usually sopping up the sauce afterward with some bread (preferably slathered in cilantro pesto, a combination I was introduced to at August restaurant in New York). This recipe creates a sop-worthy sauce that you’ll be licking out of the bowl if you run out of bread. If you don’t like arak, never fear – the flavor totally mellows, leaving behind only the slightest hint of anise. This serves 2 people as a main course or 4 as an appetizer. —kmartinelli

What You'll Need
  • 6 shallots, sliced
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Olive oil
  • 4 ounces white wine
  • 8 ounces arak
  • 2 pounds mussels
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  1. Saute the shallots and garlic in oil until soft. Add the wine and arak and cook over high heat until reduced slightly.
  2. Add the mussels (if frozen you can put them in right out of the freezer). Stir, cover, and cook over high heat for just a few minutes, until shells open. Using a slotted spoon, remove the mussels and set them aside in a large bowl.
  3. Add the cream to the pot with the rest of the liquid and simmer until reduced by half. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Add the mussels back in and throw in the fresh cilantro. Toss to combine and serve with lots of toasted bread (preferably spread with cilantro pesto) to soak up the sauce.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • AntoniaJames
  • VanessaS
  • kmartinelli
  • hardlikearmour
A native New Yorker, I recently moved to Be'er Sheva, Israel with my husband while he completes medical school. I am a freelance food and travel writer and photographer who is always hungry and reads cookbooks in bed.

7 Reviews

AntoniaJames February 16, 2011
Not to mention that arak is a killer Scrabble word . . . . . ;o)
kmartinelli February 17, 2011
Haha - I'll have to keep that one in mind!
VanessaS February 16, 2011
Yum - I had arak a few times on study abroad, I love the idea of using it with mussels. Looks great!
kmartinelli February 17, 2011
Thanks! You can also use Pernod or any similar-flavored spirit in the recipe, but what fun is that?
kmartinelli February 14, 2011
It really is! :-)
hardlikearmour February 13, 2011
Yum! Gotta have the bread to soak up the sauce. It really is the best part.
kmartinelli February 14, 2011
I meant the above to be in reply to you, oops! The sauce really is the best part. Mmm!