I love shellfish, especially mussels and clams. When I was younger, I much preferred clams but I've since come to appreciate both equally. I think it's because mussels are more commonly on menus so I've just gotten used to eating them when I need to satisfy a bi-valve craving, you know?
The other day, we bought mussels for New Years Eve. When it came time to cook them, I was torn on which direction to go - coconut milk, creamy broth or simple white wine-fennel? In the end, I decided not to decide! That is always the best decision, if you ask me. I combined both and it turned out more delicious than I expected. They went over exceptionally well with my family; 4 of us devoured over 5 pounds worth and soaked up more french bread than I'd like to admit.
I think what made the biggest impact was that I sweat my onions and fennel for longer than most recipes usually call for... This meal still comes together very quickly, but by leaving the onions and fennel to caramelize a bit, and letting the coconut milk meld with those flavours and the wine cook off really makes a difference.
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 20 mins
- 2 pounds mussels
- 3/4 shallots - minced
- 1 med bulb of fennel - cored, and sliced thinly
- chili flakes
- celery seed
- 2 tablespoons ginger minced
- 1 cup stock - fish or vegetable (I used vegetable)
- 1 can coconut milk
- 1/2-1 cup white wine
- 1 lemon - half squeezed at the end and the rest for garnish
- Basil leaves
- Fennel fronds
- 2 tsp fish sauce
- Sourdough boule - or any type of crusty bread
- In a large pot heat oil on med-high. Once oil is hot enough, add shallots. Sweat them until translucent. Add fennel and cook until soft and slightly browning, about 5-8 minutes. Add ginger half way through. Season with some salt, chili flakes and celery seeds.
- Once mixture is tender and starting to get some colour, add vegetable stock, along with the coconut milk and white wine. Bring to boil for a few minutes and let the flavours mingle. Taste and once its got enough flavour...
- Add the mussels to the broth, along with a few generous squeezes of lemon, basil leaves, and fennel fronds. Toss the mussels gently, cover with a lid until they open. Discard any mussels that do not open.
- Try the broth - add fish sauce to taste.
- For the bread: Cut the bread into slices and place on a baking sheet. Melt butter and brush onto one side of all the slices. Put under broiler until toasted. Flip and either brush more butter on, or pour some olive oil on the other side. Put back under the broiler until evenly toasted.
- Serve with lemon wedges so people can adjust the acidity to their liking.
What's a little startling about this recipe is that there is no garlic - usually a crucial part of shellfish preparation for me - but honestly, you don't even miss it! What a revelation.