There is just something special about tiny French bistros. You know the one where you can get lost in hours of good conversation with a close friend while savoring every morsel of delicious food placed before you. Maybe it’s the wine, or maybe the warm ambiance of the dimly lit dining room. Perhaps a little bit of both. Or maybe it’s the soul comforting food these french bistros usually produce.
These mussels, smothered in a silky, smooth sauce spiked with fragrant fennel would feel right at home on any of those bistro menus. Served with a crusty french baguette or a side of thin cut fries, these mussels are perfect to enjoy on a cool, crisp fall night with your favorite company.
Mussels in a Fennel Cream Sauce
2 pounds mussels, cleaned
1/2 large Vidalia Onion, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 large fennel bulb, sliced (about 2 cups)
1 pint light cream
1 1/2 cups white wine
1 1/2 cups water
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp butter
In a large saucepan or pot over medium heat, warm 1 tsp olive oil and saute the onions for 2-3 minutes or until softened. Add garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
Add butter and remaining tsp olive oil to the pan before stirring in the sliced fennel. Cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The fennel should be soft and the onions starting to caramelize. Pour in white wine, scraping the bottom of the pan before adding the water. Season with salt and pepper to taste and stir in the bayleaf. Place a cover and let cook 8-10 minutes.
Remove bayleaf. Either using a standing blender* or immersion blender, puree mixture until almost smooth. Place sauce in pan back over low heat. Stir in the cream. Taste and season with salt and pepper, if necessary.
Turn the heat up to medium-low and add in mussels. Cover the pan and let cook 6-8 minutes or until all of the mussels have opened**. Stir in chopped flat leaf parsley.
Serve mussels either over pasta, rice or with a crunchy baguette.
* If using a standing blender, make sure sauce is cool before placing in the blender.
** If mussel does not open, discard & do not eat.