y’all gotta get in on the invertebrates, like right now. the mussels this season in the northwest are insane! what is in the water?!
my husband and i were eating dinner at Branch recently (one of the happiest places on earth! yes please duck fat fries and every label of whiskey known to man). i ordered their mussels in saffron with green olives. when they came out, i looked at our server like she was crazy. “are you serious where do y’all get your mussels?” i slur my sentences when i get excited about shellfish. from the looks of things, these came from another planet. our server said she’d never seen them so large before either! i was in saffron-brothy, mussel-y heaven and i couldn’t even finish my plate they were so big and delicious and tender.
so when i stopped by my friendly local fishmonger to pick up mussels for dinner at home last night, i didn’t expect them to be the same gigantic anomalies! which is really fun because i can’t see how large they are until they’re cooked and open up. yeah, a tasty surprise! so you have to make some and eat them yourself. soon.
here’s one way to cook them. in white wine with some bright green herbs and aromatics like garlic and fennel. yum right! and it couldn’t be a faster dinner to get on the table.
if you’ve never cooked mussels before, have no fear. shellfish are your friend. and with a little butter and garlic they sing! it really takes no effort. have some serious crusty hot bread on hand to soak up all the delicious briney broth they make with the wine and butter. ok i’m ready for seconds.
mussels and fennel in white wine
- 2 cups dry white wine
- 1 large shallot, finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- half a large fennel bulb, finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 pounds live mussels
- 1/3 cup mixed fresh herbs, such as flat-leaf parsley, fennel fronds, or basil, chopped
- 3 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
- Get those live mussels under cold running water and get any grit rinsed off the outside. Grab hold of the beards, which are the stringy parts sticking out one side of the closed shell. Pull really hard and they’ll slide right out, and you can toss them.
- In a large pot over medium heat, combine wine, shallots, garlic, fennel and salt. Bring to a simmer for about 5 minutes. Then add the mussels!
- Cover the pot with a tight-fighting lid and increase heat to high. I have a wonderful set of saucepans with glass lids that lets me see the action that happens next: while the mussels steam, their winey delicious broth will coax them open like magic! This should take around five minutes. Give the pot little shakes here and there to keep all the mussels in their wine-bath.
- Stir in herbs of choice and butter and remove from heat. Discard any unopened mussels (its normal to have at least a handful of duds). Serve right away with some hearty bread slices, a bowl for shells, and more wine!