Fennel and Mussels with Crostini

This mussel dish is a staple in my house.  I make it probably once a month, or every other month.  I like it because it is really easy- and fairly light.  I serve it as an entree for 2 people with a side salad, or it could be a first course for 4 people.  It is quick- about 25 minutes from start to finish.  The BEST part about this dish is using the crunchy bread to soak up the broth that comes from the wine and juice from the mussels.

Adding the clam juice helps give this dish a stronger sea flavor and more deliciousness to sop up with your bread.  Honestly- I don’t know if I make this more so I can eat the bread or the mussels- but both are delicious.

You can make the bread first- and set it aside, reheating right before service if necessary.  Preheat your oven to broil.  Using about 1/2 a french baguette, cut 3/4 inch slices of bread on a bias and lay them out on a sheet pan.  Drizzle or paint each piece with extra virgin olive oil on the top side, salt and pepper each piece.

Place sheet tray under the brolier and keep a close eye on it.  3 out of 5 times I probably burn the bread- it goes very fast! So after maybe 2 minutes the bread should be golden brown, a little darker brown on the edges, and obviously crisp.  Remove it from the oven and set aside until later- if you want to reheat it before service put it in a 200 degree oven while the mussels are cooking.

Start by cleaning the mussels- use a colander and run them under cold water until any dirt seems to be gone.  Some may need a bit of a scrub.  While you’re cleaning if you notice that any of the mussels are not closing encourage them to shut by pinching them closed, if they still don’t close then sadly they are dead and you need to throw them away- they are not safe to eat.  If the mussels have any little hairy looking bits atttached to them, called the beard, give them a quick pluck and remove that as well.  Once they are cleaned you can leave them in the colander over a bowl and keep them refrigerated until they are ready to be used.

Prepare the fennel by first removing the tops, some people save these and use bits of them on a salad- or they could be used later in this dish as garnish.  Personally I don’t like the texture of them so if I am not saving them to use in a stock I usually send them to the compost.  Cut the fennel bulbs in half lengthwise and cut out the triangle shaped core in the bottom.

Then slice each half into thin segments, also lengthwise.

Cut the onion in thin slices to be about the same size as the fennel.

I use a enameled cast iron dutch oven for this typically- but any largish pot that has a lid will work.  Heat the oil in this pot over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and fennel and saute until they start to get a bit soft, about 5 minutes.

Sometimes if I have a tomato on hand I’ll dice it and add it now, if you were using a tomato let it cook a little bit then go in with the wine and stir it up.  Turn the heat down and let the wine reduce a little, about 1/4.  I buy any white wine between $8-$10 that is not a Chardonnay- so usually a Savigon Blanc or a Pinot Grigio- but there are all sorts of white wines that work here.  Also if you wanted to increase that anise flavor you can skip the wine and opt for a liquor like Pernod, Sambuca, or Ouzo (which are all anise liquors).

Add the pepper now, then the clam juice and the mussels.  The clam juice is optional too but it will really add to the broth at the end- and when I don’t use it I always wish that I had.       Cover up the mussels and let them cook for about four minutes- the rule with mussels is pretty much as soon as they start to open up you want to get them out of the pot.  They will open and you can see the mussel inside will go from a gummy white texture to a more firm light pink.  After about four minutes take the lid off and fish out any of the mussels that are ready to come out- placing them directly in your serving bowl(s).  Stir the remaining mussels in the pot around and cover again for about a minute- then remove the ones that are done- keep doing this until all the mussels are opened and out of the pot.  Any mussels that don’t open- throw away.  Pour everything that remains in the pot over the mussels.  Top them off with some chopped parsley and serve immediately with the crostini.  I usually serve them in a large bowl to share- but individual bowls are nice as well.

Crostini

Ingredients

  • 1/2 French Baguette (Cut into 3/4 inch slices, on a bias)
  • 1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Fresh Cracked Black Pepper

Directions

Step 1
Turn oven on to broil
Step 2
Cut baguette on the bias into 1/2 inch slices and place on sheet pan
Step 3
Using a spoon or brush drizzel or paint each slice with olive oil on one side
Step 4
Salt and pepper each slice of bread
Step 5
Cook under broiler for 2-3 minutes, until golden brown and crispy (pay close attention- they will burn easily)
Step 6
Remove and set aside until ready for service

Fennel and Mussels

Serves 4
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 10 minutes
Total time 25 minutes
Meal type Appetizer, Main Dish
Misc Serve Hot

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 small Fennel Bulbs (Tops and core removed, sliced thin.)
  • 1 large Spanish Onion (Sliced thin)
  • 1 medium Tomato (1/2)
  • 1/2 cup Dry White Wine
  • 1/2 cup Clam Juice
  • 2lb Fresh Mussels (Rinsed and scrubbed clean, beards removed. Discard any mussels that do not close tightly while cleaning.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Fresh Cracked Black Pepper (1/4 t. Crushed red pepper can be substituted for a spicier version of this dish)
  • 2 tablespoons Chopped Parsley

Directions

Step 1
Clean mussels by placing them in a colander and running cold water over them. Scrub away any dirt or grime that is obvious, remove the hairy looking "beard" by pulling it off with your fingers. If any mussels are open during cleaning, squeeze them closed, if they do not close tightly then throw them away.
Step 2
Heat olive oil in a large pot (that has a lid) over medium-high heat, once oil is hot add onions and fennel, cook until just starting to become soft, about five minutes
Step 3
If using tomato add now and allow to cook with fennel and onions for two minutes
Step 4
Add wine, stir and reduce heat to medium. Allow wine to reduce by 1/4
Step 5
Add clam juice, pepper and mussels, stir once and cover.
Step 6
Leave mussels covered for 4 minutes, then remove lid and check to see if mussels have opened. If any have opened and started to turn slightly pink remove them from pot and place in serving dish. Stir mussels, replace lid and allow to cook for another minute before checking again, and removing any open mussels. Repeat until all mussels are opened and removed from pot.
Step 7
Pour remaining liquid and vegetables from the pot over the mussels. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve immediately with crostini.

 

Comments are closed.