mussels with bacon, fennel, and white wine

This is my life post-anatomy. Making mussels for the hell of it on a weeknight, after spending a good portion of biochem lecture finding recipes online. People who sit behind me in pre-lunch lectures tend to get very hungry. The second anyone asks a question I'm on Flipboard, looking at my food blogs.

I love mussels. It's a recent obsession, inspired by the mussels at GT Fish & Oyster, which I first had over a year ago. I'd never made them at home until fairly recently, when I saw that they were on sale at the local grocery store. If you've made mussels before, you'll know what I discovered: that the longest part of making mussels is the 10 minutes you'll spend scrubbing and debearding. With these mussels, I was done cooking and eating within 50 minutes.

 
This recipe is adapted mostly from a recipe made by contestant Antonia L on Top Chef during Season…something or other. I forget exactly but I do remember clearly the episode when she made those mussels and how much the other contestants bitched about them being too easy and too French. I was set on using fennel with the mussels, and I when I googled accordingly, this recipe came up and I knew I had to use it. I did, however, adjust it slightly by adding bacon. Because, why not bacon, really?
 
Mussels with bacon, fennel and white wine
A lot of the people I mentioned mussels to seemed a bit intimidated by the concept, which I totally get, as I was the same way until a few months ago. So I've tried in the directions to demystify the process of cleaning and cooking mussels. It's not hard, I promise!
 
1 pound mussels
3-4 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped into small pieces
1/4 teaspoon chili pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bulb fennel, sliced thin
1 1/2 cup dry white wine, like a sauvignon blanc
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 sprig basil leaves
2 sprigs thyme
 
To prepare the mussels, scrub them using a brush and water. There are these little stringy bits hanging out the side: pull those out to "debeard" the mussels. Discard any mussels that are open and don't close easily when you tap them on the counter.
 
Heat a large saute pan that has a lid over medium-high heat. Add the bacon, and cook until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, preserving the drippings.
 
Add garlic, chili, and fennel, and cook until fennel is soft, around 3-4 minutes. Add wine and salt, and bring to a boil. Toss in the mussels and the herbs, cover, and cook until mussels open, around 3-4 minutes. Throw away any mussels that don't open, and sprinkle with the chopped bacon. Serve with crusty bread for dipping in the sauce.

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