Steamed Mussels with White Wine and Fennel

April 9, 2011 § 5 Comments

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My most devoted reader (my dad) knows how broke I am right now, yet here I am posting about mussels. I assure you, the bulk of my diet recently has been beans and leftovers from school, but I actually got super lucky this past weekend: my class was preparing mussels on Friday and since we are the last class of the day and, therefore, the week, we were allowed to take home all of the extra raw mussels so that they weren’t thrown away. Obviously, night class is where it’s at.

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wine and fennel

After cleaning the mussels and discarding the dead/broken guys, I had two pounds of free (well, “free”, I do pay tuition) mussels! The recipe I used comes from Antonia Lofaso, my favorite Top Chef contestant ever and possibly my long lost sister (I wish), who made this dish on an episode of Top Chef: All-Stars where they were challenged to cook a component of a classic Italian menu. The other contestants, particularly the Italians, were annoyed that she won the challenge because they considered this a French dish, and perhaps an unimpressive one. Personally, I was impressed that the winning dish was something so simple.

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dried and fresh marjoram
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raw mussels about to be steamed
I love mussels, but they really are one of the more simple “fine-dining” type dishes that you can easily replicate at home: steam in some liquid, preferably a flavorful one, with cooked and/or fresh aromatics. I was intrigued by the use of fennel as an aromatic in this dish, but really interested to see what made her dish so special. A quick glance at the ingredient list shows that there isn’t anything crazy going on here. Antonia uses a simple technique with simple, fresh ingredients and comes up with a winning dish. Some of my favorite ingredients are featured here, such as the marjoram, fennel, fresh basil, etc. Antonia shows us that flavor and technique are what is important in French and Italian cuisine, versus tradition or doing something completely unique. If you come into some mussels (or choose to pay for them), this recipe is a must try. You can plate it with a simply sauced pasta dish, serve with a grilled baguette or pommes frites, or just chow down right next to the stove like I did.
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and, they’re done.

I made a couple changes just to avoid a huge grocery bill: I didn’t use fresh thyme and I only use a little bit of fresh marjoram. Um, that’s it. This dish is so simple, there isn’t much to change. You could use water rather than stock for the steaming if you would like, but getting a fairly cheap $10 bottle of wine for this dish is kind of worth it (be aware that there won’t be any left in the bottle for drinking). You could also vary the fat you use for sauteeing: she calls for 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil and 2 tbsp of butter so I imagine she wanted to focus on the flavor of the olive oil but raise the smoke point with butter. If you’re after more butter flavor, you could just use more butter or only butter.

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there was no time for quality photos
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obviously.

Steamed Mussels with White Wine and Fennel:
adapted from Antonia Lofaso
– 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
– 2 tbsp butter
– 4 cloves garlic, chopped
– 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
– 1 tsp dried thyme
– 1 tsp dried marjoram
– 2 fennel bulbs, quartered and shaved thin(this is easy with a mandolin, but you can also use a vegetable peeler)
– 3 cups (approx 1 bottle) white wine
– salt to taste
– sugar to taste
– 2 lbs cleaned and unopened mussels
– 2 sprigs basil
– a few fresh marjoram leaves

Heat olive oil and butter in dutch oven. Add garlic, red pepper flakes, dried thyme and dried marjoram. Cook until aromatic. Add shaved fennel and cook until soft. Add white wine, salt and sugar and cook until the salt and sugar has dissolved – liquid should be at a low boil. Add mussels and top with herbs, cover the pan to steam. Cook over medium heat until mussels have opened, about 3-4 minutes, discarding any mussels that haven’t opened. Serve and enjoy.

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§ 5 Responses to Steamed Mussels with White Wine and Fennel

  • Joanne says:

    i never knew that night classes have perks, but this is DEFINITELY one of them! THose mussels look fantastic!

  • billb298 says:

    Your cousin Carly is a FREAK about seafood. I'm sending her this link. She'll LOVE this!Aunt Carrie

  • […] I originally made this in January and that version would have probably made this list. I revisited it in November and went crazy over my minor changes. I have been making this soup in big batches ever since without any more changes. I believe I have found the perfect lentil soup. #2 Steamed Mussels with White Wine and Fennel […]

  • […] recipe featuring an ingredient scored at culinary school, but it isn’t quite as fancy as mussels or unique as rabbit: humble watercress. We used fresh watercress as garnish for the ridiculous 2 lb […]

  • […] I originally made this in January and that version would have probably made this list. I revisited it in November and went crazy over my minor changes. I have been making this soup in big batches ever since without any more changes. I believe I have found the perfect lentil soup. #2 Steamed Mussels with White Wine and Fennel […]

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