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To go with my vegetarian pasta, I made mussels cooked and steamed in a Pernod and fennel based broth. Pernod is an anise base Liquor, and after the production of absinthe was banned, the parent company of Pernod Ricard started making Pernod instead. Fennel is actually one of other herbs used to flavor Absinthe, along with anise, and its scent and flavor is very similar to that of anise.

The many layers of anise like flavors really work well with that of the mussel, which is something I did not expect.

The recipe is pretty easy and takes less than 30 minutes to make, minus the mussel scrubbing.
To start the base for the mussels, diced fennel, onions, and garlic are sautéed in a large pan on moderate high heat with some olive oil until softened.

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Red pepper flakes are added to the pan and cooked for 30 seconds, then the Pernod, and the liquor is boiled for 2 minutes.

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Fish stock, or clam juice is added to the pan, and brought to a boil.

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Then the mussels are added to the pan, and the pan covered, checking every few minutes, making sure that the mussels all open. This is the magical part of the cooking process, where the brine or juices from the mussels as they open, will meld with the browned vegetables and the Pernod.

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The mussels will not open all at the same time. Some will open sooner than others, and to prevent overlooking the mussels that open earlier, I’ve made a habit of fishing out the mussels that have opened already in a large bowl, so I give enough time for the unopened one to cook without worrying about tough mussels.

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To finish the broth, butter is whisked into the liquid in the pan, along with reserved fennel fronds and finely chopped parsley.

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The sauce is poured over the cooked mussels, and served with thick crusty bread. My favorite part of this meal is dipping the bread in the broth after all the mussels are eaten, when I feel like the meal has just begun again.

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Mussels in Fennel Pernod Broth

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