Photo: Caleb Chancey, Brian Woodcock; Styling: Mary Clayton Carl
1 (12-ounce) fennel bulb with stalks
1 1/2 ounces applewood-smoked bacon, cut crosswise into thin strips
10 ounce red potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (16-ounce) can beer
1 1/2 pounds mussels, scrubbed and debearded (about 40)
4 ounces green beans, trimmed and cut into 1/3-inch pieces (about 3/4 cup)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
How to Make It
Trim tough outer leaves from fennel; mince feathery fronds to measure 2 tablespoons. Remove and discard stalks. Cut fennel bulb in half lengthwise, and discard core. Vertically slice bulb.
Cook bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium heat for 3 minutes or until crisp, stirring frequently. Add fennel bulb, potatoes, salt, and pepper. Cook 10 minutes or until fennel is lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Increase heat to high. Add beer, scraping pan to loosen browned bits; bring to a boil. Stir in mussels and green beans; cover and cook 4 minutes or until mussels open. Discard any unopened shells. Stir in juice. Divide mussel mixture evenly among 4 bowls, and spoon broth evenly over mussels. Sprinkle each serving with 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fennel fronds.
I thought this recipe was really good and has great potential. I stuck to it as much as possible this time through b/c I wanted to see what the author had in mind. I tasted as I went and in the end, I had to add double the salt and pepper to keep everything from being too bland. I did have to cook the potatoes/fennel for 5 extra minutes, as mine were also too crunchy in the middle. Next time I may see how they do at 3 extra minutes since they continue to cook once the beer is added. The green beans don't add flavor, but they add a nice, crisp freshness to the dish. Plus it's a good way of getting a green vegetable in the meal! What I would change next time: Instead of bacon, use chorizo. It would give it that extra flavor and seasoning that was needed. I will also try it with wine instead of beer. Not that I disliked the beer...it just left me wanting a deeper flavor. I think the wine and chorizo would be a great combination together. Will definitely make again! Very versatile!
The recipe was fine, but I added 2 cloves of minced garlic to make it great. The fennel, potatoes and bacon were a nice addition, creating a wonderful medley of flavors. The next time I would skip the green beans (they didn't add anything except the color green) and maybe replace with some spinach/shredded kale leaves.
Oh...I also cooked the potatoes about 5 minutes longer than what was suggested. Following the timing in the recipe, they were still a llittle crunchy in the middle.
This recipe definitely has some potential. Next time I think I'm going to substitute the beer for white wine and add some garlic and cilantro and perhaps some toasted fennel seeds. I thought the bacon would add enough seasoning, but it needed some help :)