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Mussels with Fennel and Vermouth image

Mussels with Fennel and Vermouth

Mussels are a delicacy and so easy to prepare. There are many ways to fix them; here is a simple French recipe. 

Salt water farmed mussels are in season from July to March of the next year (in Western Europe). If mussels are the main course, count on at least half a kilo of mussels in their shells per diner. If you have a choice, go for medium sized mussels. To small ones have the best flavor, but are tedious to eat. The big ones are easy to eat but not as full of flavor. 

There are so many ways to prepare mussels. From spicy to savory, there are as many ways as there are cooks. Develop your own style of preparing mussels and use what you have available in your kitchen.

The recipe below takes 20 minutes. Let's get started!

Put the mussels in cold water, removing the ones with damaged shells. Some mussels may have "beards", remove them. The mussels should close their shells. If after a few minutes, a shell is not closed, give it a tap. Still not closing? Discard that mussel.

Drain the remaining mussels in a colander.

Today, my choice of aromatics is fennel and dry white vermouth (improve on this by replacing vermouth by pastis). Using a mandolin (or good knife skills) slice the fennel thinly.

Melt some butter in a big pan (big enough to hold all the mussels and still offer room to stir). Add the fennel and gently sauté for a few minutes. Add a crushed clove of garlic, and if you are into it, a few slices of red pepper. Personally I prefer to also add some anchovy fillets; they will completely dissolve.     

Put the heat on high. Add the mussels and a glass of vermouth. Stir once and close the lid.

After two minutes, stir briefly and close the lid again. Repeat until all mussels have opened up. Serve with French bread (rubbed with garlic and toasted if you prefer), a fresh salad and a dip. My favorite consists of mayo, full-fat yoghurt, some onion powder and some Worcestershire sauce. 

How to eat mussels?

There is no way to keep your hands clean! Pick one opened mussel and remove the meat with your fingers. Now, pick the next mussel, using the shell of the first one to pick the meat of the second one from the shell. See how other people (think they should) eat mussels.