Monday, February 18, 2008

Bittman's Fennel-Steamed Mussels Provençal

Let them eat moules...


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
1/2 cup Pernod or Ricard (or 4 whole star anise)
1 cup chopped tomatoes, if desired (canned are fine, drained first)
1 sprig fresh tarragon, if desired
At least 4 pounds large mussels, well washed

1. Place the oil in a large pot and turn the heat to medium; 1 minute later, add the garlic, fennel, fennel seeds, liqueur, and tomatoes and tarragon if you're using them. Bring to a boil, cook for about 1 minute. Add the mussels, cover the pot, and turn the heat to high.
2. Cook, shaking the pot occasionally, until the mussels open, 5 to 10 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the mussels and fennel to a serving bowl, then strain any liquid over them and serve.

Serves 4

* Variation: To make the dish Asian style, combine the mussels in a cold pot with 1 cinnamon stick, 4 star anise, 2 tablespoons soy sauce and 2 tablespoons water. Cover and cook as above in Step 2. If possible, toss with about 1/2 cup of torn Thai basil leaves.

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