MUSSELS WITH WHITE WINE is my favorite meal to serve to guests. Other than some chopping, there's nothing to it; the ingredients are inexpensive, and the results are sublime. A piled-high bowl of mussels in a luscious, flavorful broth is a thing of beauty. Serve with a large slice of garlicky toasted bread or a heaping pile of salty French fries.
¾ cup mayonnaise
2 garlic cloves, mashed to paste
¼ cup finely minced fresh tarragon
4 pounds mussels (see note)
4 tablespoons butter
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped shallots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 bulb fennel, chopped (reserve the fronds for garnish)
2 cups dry white wine
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
Toasted bread or French fries, for serving
Serves 4 as an entrée
1 To make the aioli, combine the mayonnaise, garlic, and tarragon in a small bowl and mix well.
Season with salt to taste and set aside.
2 Rinse the mussels well under cold water. Pick them over, pulling off any beards and discarding any that are cracked.
3 In a large cast-iron Dutch oven, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, shallots, celery, and fennel, and cook until soft but not colored, stirring often, about 3 minutes.
4 Add the mussels, wine, and tarragon.
Immediately cover the pan and increase the heat to high. Cook for 3 minutes, shaking the pan once or twice.
5 Remove the lid, add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, and stir. Cover and cook for 3 minutes longer, again shaking the pan once or twice.
6 To serve, divide the mussels and broth among warmed bowls. Garnish with aioli and chopped fennel fronds. Serve with toasted bread or French fries to sop up the broth.
Note: When you buy mussels, ask the fishmonger to clean them. It will save you a bit of time and struggle trying to remove the inedible beards they sometimes come with.