One of the things I love about Maine is the fact that we can get our hands on the freshest of seafood. And by fresh, I’m talking “morning of.” Whatever it is comes off the boat in the morning and is in the stores by the afternoon. One of my favorites is mussels. I’ve loved these things since the beginning of time.
I think the best thing about mussel dishes is their taste. The mussels themselves have a great texture and you can pretty much get as creative as you’d like with the broth you cook them in. Personally, I enjoy any broth that has tons of garlic in it – as you read through the content below, you’ll see that I was quite pleased with last night’s dinner. Another benefit of eating mussels, besides their health benefits, is the price you can get them for. I’ve seen them as low as $1.99 per pound. That’s not bad, considering each person only eats around one of them.
I found this recipe at Cook’s Country. It adds a bit of a twist to what I’m used to. In this recipe, the author uses fennel, which, until yesterday, I didn’t know I had an affinity for. I always thought fennel had a much stronger licorice taste. In actuality, it’s quite mellow and is really easy to get used to. It adds a dimension to this dish that’s actually very nice.
8 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
6 Garlic Cloves, Crushed
2 Tablespoons Dried Tarragon
Regular Table Salt
Ground Black Pepper
12 Inches of French Bread
1 Fennel Bulb, Chopped
1 1/2 Cups Dry White Wine
4 pounds Mussels, Cleaned
There’s a sequence to follow for this recipe. If you do so, you can avoid some stressful running around. This should be a quick and easy recipe, after cleaning the mussels, of course.
Clean & Debeard the Mussels
This is my least favorite part of eating mussels. Somehow, I always get stuck cleaning them. I can get through one or two pounds just fine, but after three or four, my back starts to hurt from leaning over the sink. Anyway, for this recipe, it’s important to clean any grit off the mussel exterior and to debeard them as well. I use a pair of needle nose pliers for this. I pull the beard out of the mussel as far as it’ll go, then I’ll clamp on to it and pull. This tool does a good job and saves my fingertips from pain later on.
After you’re finished cleaning, place the mussels in a colander and set aside for later.
Make Butter Mixture
In a medium size bowl, place an entire stick of butter (8 tablespoons). If the butter has been out of the refrigerator for a while, it should be soft enough to work with. If it’s straight out of the fridge, stick it in the microwave for 30 seconds. That will soften it perfectly.
Once the butter is soft, go ahead and add the 6 cloves of crushed garlic, 1 tablespoon of dried tarragon, 1/4 teaspoon of regular table salt and a half teaspoon of ground black pepper to the bowl. Stir until completely combined.
Slice & Butter French Bread
The French bread I purchased was about two feet long, so I only used half of it. For this recipe, you’ll need to cut the bread into twelve pieces, on the bias. Each piece should be about one inch thick.
After that, go ahead and butter the slices of bread with approximately 5 tablespoons of the butter mixture and arrange on a baking sheet.
Set this aside for later.
Melt the Butter & Add Fennel
Take about 1 tablespoon of the butter mixture and add it to a large pot. Over medium heat, melt the butter and let the ingredients simmer for about 1 minute. After that, add the chopped fennel to the pot and cover. Let cook for a few minutes.
Once that’s finished, add the 1 1/2 cups of dry white wine to the pot, along with 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Let everything simmer over medium heat between 3-5 minutes. Basically, I brought the heat to high for a bit, just to get a boil, and then I lowered back to medium to maintain the simmer.
After the ingredients in the pot had a chance to cook for a while, go ahead and add the mussels.
Cover the pot and let steam over medium heat between 4-6 minutes. Somewhere during this time, the mussels should open. Again, I brought the heat to high to get some steam rolling and then I lowered it back to medium for the duration. Also, you’ll need to stir the mussels a few times while they’re cooking. This will mix them with the tasty broth that’s at the bottom of the pot.
While the mussels are steaming, turn the broiler in your oven to low and adjust the rack inside the oven so it’s about 4 inches away from the top heating element. For me, this was the second position from the top. When warm, add the baking sheet with the bread on it to the oven. Let the bread toast for about 1 minute and then remove the tray. Keep your eye on this – the bread toasts rather quickly and you don’t want it to burn. It should come out golden brown.
Plate & Serve
I told you this was a fast recipe. When everything is finished steaming and toasting, go ahead and scoop the mussels up and divide between 4 bowls. Add the leftover butter mixture to the broth that’s in the pot and let melt. When that’s done, scoop the broth up and pour it evenly over the mussels in the 4 bowls. This is where all your flavor will come from. After that, divide up the toasted garlic bread and serve.
The Final Product
This recipe is bursting with flavor. Seriously, it’s good. Just be careful. It’s got some garlic in there and if you want to be social the next day, beware. Definitely prepare this when you’re going to be alone for a while. I’ll tell you though, that garlic is so, so good.
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