Before Chris Kronner makes this dish, he forages mussels from the nearby coast. "You have to climb down a 75-foot rock face on a rickety ladder; it's intense," he says.
Plus: F&W's Fish and Seafood Cooking Guide
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons fish stock or bottled clam broth
Large pinch of saffron threads
One 1/4-inch-thick slice of peasant bread, crust removed
1 large egg yolk
1 jarred piquillo pepper, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 heads of fennel, cored and diced, plus 1/4 cup chopped fronds
1 medium onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 cup Pernod or absinthe
1 1/4 cups fish stock or bottled clam broth
4 pounds mussels, scrubbed and debearded
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup chopped parsley
How to Make It
Step 1 Prepare the Mussels
In a microwave*#150;safe bowl, heat 2 tablespoons of the fish stock at high power. Crumble in the saffron and let cool. In a large bowl, soften the bread in the remaining 1/4 cup of fish stock.
Step 2 Prepare the Mussels
In a food processor, puree the soaked bread, egg yolk, piquillo, garlic and lemon juice until smooth. With the machine on, slowly pour in 1/4 cup of the oil and the saffron fish stock. Slowly pour in the remaining 1/4 cup of oil. Season with cayenne and salt.
Step 3 Prepare the Mussels
In a large pot, heat the oil. Add the diced fennel, onion and garlic and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until softened, 7 minutes. Add the red pepper and cook for 30 seconds. Add the Pernod and boil over high heat for 2 minutes. Add the fish stock and bring to a boil. Add the mussels, cover and cook, shaking the pot, until they open, 5 minutes. Pile the mussels in a bowl; discard any that don't open. Stir the butter into the broth, add the fennel fronds and parsley; season with salt. Pour the broth over the mussels and serve with the rouille.
Grilled, buttered bread.
Andrew Mariani serves a crisp California Chardonnay with the mussels and spicy rouille because the dish plays up the wine's toasty, smoky flavors.
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