For some reason I am always astonished at how easy it is to make mussels at home. Toss some things into a pot, add mussels, and you usually end up with something relatively good. But occasionally all those ingredients create something sort of transcendent. I'm not sure why this particular recipe from Pop Artichoke did it, but I've been thinking about it a lot since making it a few days ago.
Of course, bacon is almost always a good idea, but the fennel is just as important. Butter also helps make the sauce luxurious, while the lemon helps sharpen the flavor. You will need some crusty bread to dip into the liquid. But the best part is still the mussels themselves. Each one is briny, and yet enveloped in the bacony sauce.
- 2 pounds mussels, cleaned and de-bearded
- 3 slices thick-cut bacon, diced
- ½ head fennel, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
- 3 sprigs thyme
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
- juice of one lemon
- salt and pepper
Add bacon to a large pot set over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until diced bacon is starting to crisp up and has rendered some fat. Add fennel, reduce heat to medium, and cook until it is softened.
Add thyme, garlic, mussels, and wine. Cover the pot. Cook until mussels have opened up, about 4 minutes. Discard mussels that don’t open. When mussels are done, turn off heat, and add butter, parsley, and lemon juice. Stir well, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Dump mussels in a large bowl, and serve with crusty bread.