Mussels in a Braised Fennel and Leek Sauce

Read through our blog and you’ll see – we LOVE mussel recipes. But for good reason – this glorious little local bivalve deserves every bit of the attention it gets. They’re super easy to make, so delicious to eat, and the ways you serve them are only limited by your imagination. This recipe started with two extra bulbs of fennel and a need for an impromptu, after-work dinner party with some of our favorite Bachelor-watching ladies.

Mussels in a Braised Fennel-Leek Sauce
Mussels in a Braised Fennel-Leek Sauce

This menu is adapted from one of our favorite local cookbooks – Pacific Northwest The Beautiful Cookbook. (It’s an oddly punctuated title for a book full of lovely recipes and great photos.)

Fennel in a pretty silver pan
Leeks in a pretty silver pan

Trim the green off two bulbs of fennel. Slice them in half, thin out the core, and then slice each bulb thinly. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the fennel, season with salt and pepper, and saute for about fifteen minutes. You’re slowly stirring the fennel and letting it caramelize and turn brown. Pour in a bit of white wine from time to time as you stir, to deglaze the pan. After the fennel is caramelized and brown, set aside.

Bearded mussel
Bearded mussel

Clean two pounds of mussels. In a sieve in your sink, pull off their beards, rinse the mussels, and set aside.

In a medium stockpot (or, we use a wok), over medium heat, add 5 leeks (chopped into matchsticks), 2 minced garlic cloves and 1/2 cup of rice vinegar. Cook it down until the vinegar reduces to a tablespoon (about ten minutes). Then add 1/2 cup fruity white wine (we used chardonnay). Continue cooking and reduce by half.

Now, put the fennel back in the wok, along with 1/4 cup Pernod (a fabulous licorice liqueur you can drink as an inspiration for dinner preparation).

Bring to a simmer and as the liquid begins to bubble, add the mussels and 4 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon. Cover with the wok lid and steam for about three minutes, being careful not to overcook the mussels. The mussels are ready when they fall open.

Mussels in a Braised Fennel-Leek Sauce
Mussels in a Braised Fennel-Leek Sauce

Serve with chopped parsley and red pepper, and a side of grilled bread rubbed with garlic. Amazing!


  • 2 pounds mussels
  • 2 fennel bulbs
  • 5 leeks (white parts, cut into matchsticks)
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/2 cup fruity white wine
  • 1/4 cup Pernod
  • 4 T chopped fresh tarragon (or 1 T dried)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • fresh parsley
  • 1 T minced red bell pepper

Published by

Seattle Foodshed

Gardening, foraging, exploring and cooking. Time for a delicious adventure.

11 thoughts on “Mussels in a Braised Fennel and Leek Sauce”

  1. This looks scrumptious. My mouth is watering just reading this. We’ve been grilling our bread a lot this summer as well. Usually over pear or apple wood chips to give it a wonderful smoky flavor.

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