These days, most of my cooking comes in casserole form. So when my parents offered to take Big Brother for three blissfully quiet days, I knew on at least one of those nights my 8 x 8 needed to stay in the cupboard.
Shellfish swimming in buttery, briny broth (say that five times fast) is a rare treat for us. It felt very nostaligic to come home from the store with one sack filled with the makings of a good meal rather than shuffling through the door laden with plastic bags full of milk, peanut butter, Cheez-Its, you get the idea.
I love this dish for so many reasons. First, mussels are cheap. A two-pound bag only set me back about $7. Second, a pile of glossy black shells veiled in steamy broth makes for quite an impressive presentation. And third, it’s not too labor intensive. Other than the thirty minutes of prep time required to roast the garlic, this entire meal was ready in the time it took to bring a pot of water to a boil and cook spaghetti noodles. The Husband and I have such little time together. I don’t want to spend it slaving in the kitchen.
The recipe instructs you to steam the mussels in IPA, or Indian Pale Ale. It’s a type of beer that has a strong hops flavor that lends itself nicely to the salty brine of the mussels. I chose a local brew — Southern Hops’pitality IPA by Lazy Magnolia. You can certainly substitute with your favorite IPA if you have one.
This just goes to show you that you don’t have to spend a nauseating amount of money on an elegant meal. This dish is a slurper. You’ll want to keep napkins close by to wipe broth from your chin and crusty bread and the ready to sop it all up.
- 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 head garlic
- 3 Tbs. unsalted butter
- 1 small fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced
- 2 lb. mussels, cleaned
- ½ cup India pale ale
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Cut off the top third of the garlic with a sharp knife. Place the bulb in the middle of a piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle the bulb generously with olive. Season with salt and pepper.
- Carefully wrap the foil around the garlic bulb. Bake the garlic until the cloves are soft and fragrant, about 30 minutes. Allow cloves to cool slightly, then gently squeeze them into a small bowl.
- Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the sliced fennel and cook until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add the roasted garlic and cook for an additional 30 seconds.
- Add the mussels to the pot. Pour the beer over the top, cover, and simmer until the shells begin to open, about 5-7 minutes. Discard any mussels whose shells do not open.
- Pour the mussels and all their broth into a large bowl. Serve hot with a loaf of crusty bread.