This one’s a nice departure from the summer-style mussel recipes so far, a dish more suited to fall or winter, or post-Labor Day New England. You know, fluffy sweaters and shorts, tourists all gone…that crisp, cool, Cape Cod light. Okay, I don’t live that way either. But it sounds good, right?
Anthony Bourdain, The Les Halles Cookbook
There are days in August especially when all I want is a nice, rich bowl of pasta; fortunately for me, I can make us a pan of Amatriciana sauce with fresh tomatoes and still count it as seasonally-appropriate cooking. It’s much more difficult to find an analogous dish in the wintertime, one that is made with seasonal produce but won’t weigh you down in its density.
Shellfish dishes have been filling this need fairly well so far this season, but moules à la grecque is quite possibly the ne plus ultra of the bunch. Relatively fast to make, easy to cook, and riddled with fennel, this is everything that Bourdain promises above: a wintertime alternative to the bright, summery dishes that beg for freshly-trimmed herbs and fresh tomatoes from the garden. If you can get it made by 5PM in late February, you can also enjoy it in the crisp, cool New England light, though shorts would only be recommended if dining indoors with good central heating.
Paired with a nice French 75, this served as a lovely aperitif to a dinner of decidedly Italian origin: spaghetti alla gricia and pollo fra diavolo. Given that this is a French version of a Greek spin on mussels, though, it’s not that incongruous, no?
Moules à la Grecque
adapted from The Les Halles Cookbook
serves 2 as an appetizer
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 (small) fennel bulb, cored and sliced thinly
- 2 shallots, sliced thinly
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 cup white wine
- Juice of a lemon
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- Kosher salt
- 2 lbs mussels, cleaned
Heat the olive oil over medium to medium-high heat. Add the fennel, the shallots, and the garlic, and cook until soft–about five to eight minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the white wine, lemon, coriander and fennel seeds and stir well and then add the mussels and cover. Shake the pan, then cook for about 2-3 minutes; shake it again, and cook for another minute. Begin removing mussels to a serving platter as they open and cover and cook to allow any slower-to-open mussels cook. If they don’t open up after two minutes, discard. Cover the mussels with the sauce and serve immediately, preferably with some nice white wine.