The first time I tried mussels was in Santiago de Compostela in the tiny kitchen of my temporary abuela, Delia. She’d often serve them for lunch, swimming in a big bowl of pasta and tomato sauce. From then on it was mussels, mussels, mussels. Mussels on the half shell with Parmesan and garlic, mussels in a medley of clams, scallops and shrimp, or my personal favorite, mussels in a white wine broth with bread.
At one point, my love for the little mollusks got so intense that I had to worry about mercury poisoning.
If you’ve not yet experienced the joy of mussels, let me tell you why you’ll love them. Packaged in beautiful deep blue, almost black shells, mussels are a nice break from cooking traditional protein like beef, chicken or even fish. Once soaked, they steam up quick, needing only four to six minutes to open. They are inexpensive and can be readily found at places like Whole Foods or your neighborhood seafood shop. And lastly, if you’re landlocked like me, it will satisfy your coastal craving and feel like a mini vacation in your mouth.
This recipe for Steamed Mussels in Fennel White Wine Broth was inspired by a recent trip to Lockeland Table, a fantastic little restaurant on the East side of Nashville. The fennel, lemon and parsley all shine brilliantly and create a beautiful bouquet of flavors that’s light, refreshing and savory all at once.
You’ll want to serve these mussels with a fine loaf of bread. Something substantial to sop up the tasty broth. A french baguette will do or you could get fancy like me and go for a loaf of Rosemary Olive Oil bread. Regardless, the bread is essential.
Before I get to the recipe, I want to leave you with a few quick tips on buying and cooking with mussels:
- Two pounds of mussels are more than enough for two people. If serving four people, I’d recommend buying 3-4 pounds since you’ll be discarding a few along the way.
- When you get home with your mussels, you’ll want to look for and discard any mussels that aren’t closed tight. This is important! Keep them cold until you’re ready to cook - you want to keep those babies alive and breathing.
- There are lots of ways to clean mussels. I’ve included below my favorite method, which includes soaking in flour and ice water for 30 minutes prior to cooking. The solution gets rid of any sand or grit and makes for plump mussels every time.
- Like most seafood, mussels are best cooked and served immediately as well as consumed in one sitting.
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do! As always, I’d love to hear what you think in the comments section below.
Steamed Mussels in Fennel White Wine Broth with Lemon
*Makes 2-3 servings
- 2 lbs mussels, soaked, rinsed and “beards” removed
- 1/3 cup flour
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 cups dry white wine (I use a Pinot Gris)
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 1 large fennel bulb, sliced
- zest and juice of one large lemon, additional lemon wedges for serving
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley leaves and 2 Tbsp. minced parsley stems
- 3 Tbsp. butter
- coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1.) To clean the mussels, place them in a large bowl of ice water. Add the flour and swirl to dissolve and submerge. Let sit for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, drain and rinse the mussels. If needed, remove any “beards” (the furry fibers that may cling to the outside of the shell). Discard any mussels whose shells aren’t tightly shut.
2.) Heat butter in a large pot with a lid. Once melted, add the shallot and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
3.) Add fennel and 1 tsp salt. Season with pepper and sauté until soft, 4-5 minutes.
4.) Increase heat and add lemon juice and white wine. Bring to a boil and cook until the liquid is slightly reduced, about 2-3 minutes.
5.) Add the mussels to the pot and stir to cover. Cover with lid and cook just until the shells open, about 4-6 minutes. Stir halfway through. (Mine were ready right at 4 minutes)
6.) Once the mussels are cooked, remove from heat. Discard any mussels that do not open. Season with lemon zest, salt, pepper and parsley.
To serve, ladle the mussels and broth into a bowl and serve with a few pieces of toasted bread and a lemon wedge or two. I like to use a fork to get the mussels out of their shells and a spoon to help polish off the broth.