Whenever I am in a good French or Belgian restaurant I almost always order mussels. Moules Marinière is that dish almost always found on any self-respectable bistro menu. Or when served with French fries, it's moules frites. Pastis in New York's meatpacking district serves my favorite version, moules au Pernod. Instead of using white wine as its base, the recipe uses Pernod, the sweet anise liqueur with that characteristic yellow-green color. The drink is a lot like absinthe or pastis, for which the restaurant is named. It gives the dish a robust and herbal quality that is beyond amazing. The last time I ate at the restaurant, I split an order of mussels with a friend. We devoured the moules and the frites. We even used the bread to soak up the broth—when we ran out of bread, we just slurped up the broth.
This recipe is a re-creation of that fateful dish. I must say that making it and enjoying it at home was just as—if not more—satisfying. I start by sautéing thinly sliced garlic, then add the Pernod, and finally the mussels. Then just garnish with parsley for a bit of freshness. It's such a quick and easy dish. I love mussels prepared in this way. The recipe would also work well for clams, but I find mussels sweeter and more flavorful than other shellfish. Not only that, but they typically are less expensive than clams, oysters, or scallops. So why go out to dinner at a restaurant when you can make this easy meal at home? Serve the mussels with Belgian fries for a real bistro touch.
Moules au Pernod
1-1/2 pounds mussels
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 cup Pernod
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
Add mussels to a large bowl and fill with cold water; let soak for 20 minutes. Scrub each mussel and remove the beard by pulling toward the hinge using a towel between your thumb and forefinger for leverage. Let mussels drain in a colander.
Warm oil in a large sauté pan with a tight-fitting lid over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add wine. Season with pepper.
Raise heat to high. Once wine begins to simmer, add mussels and cover. Cook until all the mussels have opened, no more than 3 to 5 minutes. Shake the pan to encourage the process. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve immediately. Yield: 1 to 2 main course servings.