The best part of eating locally and seasonally is trying new fruits and vegetables. I always play a little game in my head when I go to a farmers’ market of walking around and searching for something unusual to cook with. This summer, my new found cooking friend is fennel. It’s crisp and adds a licorice-like bit to loads of summer dishes. I used it previously with salmon and apples, but this time I wanted to push my boundaries in the kitchen and make it with mussels (my favorite) and Shock Top beer. Shock Top is a Belgian, white ale that is normally accompanied by an orange slice. It’s great in the summer. I wanted to take the natural pairing of the ale and oranges and add it to the crisp fennel to make a broth of mussels. I threw in some chicken sausage for texture and substance, tarragon to embellish the fennel flavors, and lots of garlic and shallots. And here we are! A refreshing, filling, and healthy entree to celebrate summer’s finest ingredients.
Makes: 4 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes Total Time: 25 minutes
3 lbs mussels
2 garlic and herb chicken sausages
1 bottle of Shock Top beer (Allagash White Ale, Blue Moon, and UFO Harpoon are good substitutes)
1/2 cup white wine (dry and not sweet)
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 medium bulb fennel
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
1 small white onion, small dice
2 oranges, zested and juiced
2 tbs fresh tarragon, minced
1 French baguette (optional garnish)
- To prepare the mussels, rinse really well through a strainer with cold water. Scrub the outside shells with a food brush to remove the beard and keep cool in the refrigerator or over ice.
- To prepare the fennel, cut the stalks from the bulb and set the stalks aside. Cut the bottom of the bulb away and cut the bulb in half vertically. Turn it sideways and thinly slice the fennel. Remove the fronds from the stock and mince up for garnish.
- Heat a large soup pan on medium-high heat; add a good drizzle of olive oil and 1 tbs butter. Add the fennel bulb, orange zest, garlic, shallot, and white onion to the pan. Saute and stir until they start to caramelize. Reduce the heat to medium.
- Add the two chicken sausages and brown on all sides. You don’t want to cook it completely through, but you want to cook it enough that you can slice it without it falling apart. When they are brown, remove from the pan and set on a cutting board. Slice the sausages into bite-sized pieces.
- Increase the heat back up to high. Add the white wine, Shock Top, chicken stock, and orange juice. Bring the liquids to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and add the mussels and chicken sausage to the pot. Cover and cook for 4 minutes or so, or until all the the mussel shells have opened.
- Serve the mussels in 4 big bowls. Season the broth with salt and pepper and divide among the bowls. Top with the fennel fronds and fresh tarragon. Serve with a toasted baguette seasoned with salt and olive oil.