This dish of mussels with fennel and orange is really a celebration of fennel. The base of the plant is chopped, the fronds are minced, and the seed is finely ground. But what's really remarkable, to me at least, is that the dish doesn't come out smelling exclusively of licorice. That's the smell I most associate with fennel, anyway. I figure it's the orange zest that balances everything out. Though only a tablespoon of the stuff is used, it's surprisingly fragrant.
I've had a lot of luck with Marie Simmons's Things Cooks Love, even if I haven't always had the recommended tools for the job. For this recipe she recommends an authentic mussel pot, which I am sure is a perfect tool for this dish, but it was something I simply didn't have. I found that everything can easily be done in a large pot equipped with a steamer basket. The recipe is right on, and that's all that matters.
- 2 pounds mussels, washed and de-bearded
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup onion, chopped
- 1/2 cup fennel, chopped
- 1 tablespoon fennel fronds, chopped
- 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
- 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
- 1 tablespoon orange zest, julienned
- 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 teaspoon salt
Find a mussel pot, or a large pot with a steamer basket. Remove the basket, and melt the butter in the pot set over medium heat. Toss in the onion, fennel, fennel fronds, and parsley. Cook for 5 minutes, or until the onion is tender.
Add the fennel seeds, orange zest, and garlic and cook for 1 minute. Pour in the wine, bring to a boil, and cook for 2 minutes. Add the salt.
Dump the cooked mussels into a large bowl, and pour the juice on top. Serve with some crusty bread.