Moules with Pernod and Saffron Aïoli
When I was a kid I used to say, “Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, because you get to pig out and not feel bad about it.” This is noteworthy mostly because I rarely feel guilty about pigging out, even on the other 364 days of the year.
The day after Thanksgiving this year, however, I was craving a light supper, void of poultry, with lots of greens. Greens and something from the sea, that even my finicky non-fish eating host would enjoy. Mussels were simple, light and intoxicatingly delicious—thanks to a healthy dose of Pernod—for my Long Island post-Thanksgiving supper.
2 tablespoons hot water
pinch of saffron threads crumbled
2/3 cup mayonnaise
2 garlic cloves, minced
Let several threads of saffron sit in 2 tablespoons of hot water. Combine 2/3 cup high quality mayonnaise with minced garlic and the saffron-infused water. If you are making your mayonnaise from scratch, click here for my recipe.
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 large leeks, white and pale green parts only, in small slices
1 fennel bulb, sliced thin
2 celery stalks, sliced
1 large shallot, sliced
1 ½ white onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, sliced
6 tablespoons parsley, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup Pernod, or other anise-flavored liqueur
1 ½ cup dry white wine
4 ½ pounds of mussels, scrubbed and debearded
Heat olive oil in a large pot and add chopped leeks, fennel, celery, onion and finely chopped parsley, stirring to coat vegetables and herbs in olive oil. Cover the pot and let cook until the vegetables are tender-about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Turn the heat up under the veggies, add the garlic and chopped tomato, and add Pernod. Leave the top off the pot and, stirring to coat, let some alcohol cook off and the flavor absorb. Add white wine and reduce the liquid by a quarter. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper; this is your last chance to perfect the flavor that your finished moules will have. Add the mussels and cover tightly for 6 minutes, or until the mussels open.
If you are plating in the kitchen, spoon the mussels into bowls, then garnish with remaining parsley. Combine 2 spoonfuls of aïoli to the broth at the bottom of the pot and spoon this and the chopped vegetables over the plated mussels, or if you’re eating en-famille, pour this fortified sauce over the bowl of mussels, and let everyone help themselves at the table with a big ladle or spoon. Serve with aïoli, bread and salad.
N.B. This is a flexible recipe adapted from one in Bon Appétit. Don’t have a tomato? Use finely chopped carrot. No celery stalks? Use celery root, instead. My gracious host served a magnum of Chablis, but any dry white wine will accompany the dish well.
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