I find that eating mussels is among my favorite simple pleasures. There’s a bit of luxury in the act of lingering over a steamy bowl of shells soaked with wine and garlic broth; in taking your time with each mussel to carefully separate the meat from its opalescent backing; in soaking a slice of rustic bread in the broth after all the shells have been emptied and set aside. A late lunch of mussels is my favorite excuse for enjoying the afternoon sun and a crisp white wine in summer, or a spicy tomato broth for winter’s chill. Mussels are available year-round, inexpensive, and not hard to cook properly.
One of my favorite ways to eat mussels is in a spicy broth. One of the more memorable spicy seafood meals of my life is from a restaurant in Portland, Maine called Street & Co. If you ever find yourself there, order the lobster diavolo. It will blow your mind! You might even cry. It’s a huge skillet of spicy seafood and linguine for two and perfect to share on a wintery night. Ah, I think about that dish often. . . and then I make mussels because it’s cheaper and doesn’t require traveling 3,000 miles.
This delicious lunch consists of steamed mussels in a spicy tomato and white wine broth with garlic, fennel, and a dash of Ricard which is an anise flavored liquor. I enjoyed the mussels with a glass of the random white table wine I used to make the broth with, and some crusty bread. Enjoy!
Spicy Steamed Mussels with Tomato & Fennel
2 T Olive Oil
1 Fennel Bulb, thinly sliced
1 Shallot, thinly sliced
4 Garlic Cloves, minced
1 C Dry White Wine
1 T Tomato Paste
1 14 oz. Can Diced Tomatoes (I use the low sodium or no-salt-added kind)
¼ tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
2 Lbs Fresh Mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded
1 T Ricard (or other anise flavored Liquor
¼ C Chopped Fresh Basil Leaves
Directions: In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Cook the fennel until softened, approx 3 minutes. Add the shallot and garlic, cook 1-2 minutes while stirring constantly. Increase the heat and add the white wine, boiling until reduced by half, approx 3-4 minutes. Add the tomato paste, canned tomatoes with their liquid and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil. Add mussels and Ricard. Cover pan and cook until mussels are open, approx 4-5 minutes. Remove lid, stir in basil. Season with Salt and pepper to taste. Serve mussels in large bowls with the broth.