Mussels with Lemon-Fennel Butter
- SERVINGS: 8 FIRST-COURSE SERVINGS
If you want to serve these mussels in bowls as a quick shellfish stew, add the lemon-fennel butter to the cooking liquid after you have removed the mussels, then simmer until it thickens slightly and use it as a sauce.
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 2 tablespoons minced shallots
- 2 pounds mussels, scrubbed and debearded
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fennel, plus feathery sprigs for garnish
- 2 tablespoons Pernod
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- In a large saucepan, combine the wine and shallots and bring to a boil. Add the mussels, cover and cook over high heat, shaking the pan occasionally, until the mussels open, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the mussels to a bowl as they are done. Let cool slightly.
- Remove the mussels from their shells and transfer to a bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of the olive oil to the mussels and toss to coat. Sort through the mussel shells and keep the nicest shell from each pair; discard the rest.
- Grind the fennel seeds in a spice grinder or mortar. Heat the remaining 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a small saucepan. Add the chopped fennel and cook over high heat, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in the Pernod, tilt the pan and carefully ignite the Pernod with a long match. When the flames die down, remove the pan from the heat. Transfer the mixture to a small bowl and let cool to room temperature. Gradually whisk in the butter, ground fennel seeds, lemon juice and lemon zest and season with salt and pepper.
- Preheat the broiler. Place 1 mussel in each shell and set the mussels on a rimmed baking sheet. Top each mussel with 1/2 teaspoon of the fennel butter. Broil about 6 inches from the heat for 1 minute, just until the mussels sizzle. Garnish each with a small fennel sprig and serve immediately.
Try a stainless steel-fermented dry white, such as a crisp, clean Chardonnay that won't overpower the mussels. Or drink a brut sparkling wine.