I grew up in New England. I know, I know…Greenwich, CT is on the edge of New York but still, it îs New England. I’m never, ever late for anything. You won’t find me on your doorstep without first calling you, and I refer to those big, long a submarine or hoagie sandwiches as a “grinder” which is very Connecticut.
I spent summer holidays eating oysters and clams raw, sans the cocktail sauce, picked fresh that morning by my dad, straight from the bay in Wellfleet, MA. The first home I ever purchased was in Norwalk, CT, famous for mussels. I also make a wicked, creamy fish chowder.
I love mussels. They are beautiful as the subject of a painting and they are even better to eat. I only eat them steamed. But once, at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, I had some unbelievably tasty mussels on a stick, swathed in a creamy garlic sauce.
My favorite way to steam mussels is with white wine and a touch of Pernod. I was first introduced to steamed mussels by Tom Nye, a chef who cooked for a little restaurant in Greenwich called The Chowder House, where I waitressed as a teenager. It was located on Lewis Street, now long gone, it served only a handful of tables and Tom Nye made the most delicious chowders and shellfish I have ever tasted. Ever.
Tom taught me that when mussels are harvested on the full moon, they are extra plump and he showed me so with each full moon catch. Somewhere, tucked away in storage, I have a tiny box full of teensy pink and gray mussel pearls I gathered from my many Tom Nye mussel meals.
Tom steamed his mussels in the most delicious broth, good enough to eat with a spoon. He used only white wine, fresh rosemary, garlic and shallots. Over the years, I’ve added the Pernod flavor and the tomatoes, substituted a bit of fennel for the rosemary, borrowing here and there from the best of various restaurants where I have dined on mussels.
Here is how I prepared my mussels in the photo.
By the way, I ate all two pounds by myself.
From me to you, with love and butter.
MUSSELS IN WHITE WINE WITH PERNOD
What you will need to have ready:
- 2 pounds fresh mussels, cleaned, Norwalk or Prince Edward Island mussels (or whatever your fish supplier has fresh).Toss out any that have begun to open. Ick…they’re dead.
- 2 cups of any dryish, white wine. Try any Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc
Do not use a sweet wine such as Zinfandel or Riesling.
- 3/4 Shot of Pernod, or Ricard, Anise or Ouzo.
- 1 Tooth of minced garlic
- 1/8 Tsp ground fennel seed (Optional). Grind in a coffee grinder or a mortar & pestle.
- 2 Stalks green onion, chopped into small rounds.
- 1/2 Cup of grape tomatoes, whole. Or 1/2 cup chunked fresh tomato
- 2 Tablespoons of melted butter, in a separate dish, for dipping.
- A wedge of lemon
Now do this:
Set your cleaned mussels aside 2 pounds
In a large soup pot, with the flame on medium, sauté together:
- 2 Tbsp butter
- Pinch of salt
- 1 Tooth minced garlic
- 1/8 Tsp ground fennel seed (again, optional)
- 1 or 2 stems of green onion, chopped
After you have sautéed these in ingredients for a few minutes, add:
- 2 Cups of any dry white wine of your choice.
- 3/4 Ounce of Pernod, Ricard, Ouzo, or any Anise flavored liquor you have handy.
- When the wine has been brought to a simmer, dump all the mussels in and cover the pot tightly.
- Just before covering the pot, add the tomatoes and the sliced green onion.
If you don’t have grape tomatoes, don’t worry. Just cut up a medium tomato into small bites.
- Allow the pot to steam for three – five minutes, checking after three or four.
Your mussels should have gently opened.
As soon you see nearly all are open, turn off the flame! You do not want to overcook them.
- Pour out the entire contents into two large bowls and place the lemon wedge (missing from my picture) and the melted butter within reach.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If a now-cooked mussel refuses to open, toss it.
You want to eat only the mussels that are open.
- Serve with your favorite dipping bread so you can soak up the broth.
Use ONLY Wine, a Tablespoon of fresh rosemary, shallots, a pinch of salt, a little butter.