“We need a dish that smells like Durban!” said Dean one day.
The Jankelowitz family used to vacation in the coastal South African city during the summertime, and Dean remembers it dreamily for the elegant beachfront hotels and the best Indian food outside of India. After some research, chef Julia began to conjure the smell of fennel, curry, and salt water in the air. She got to work tinkering with various ingredients and flavors and finally served this very same bowl of mussels to Dean, who smiled and said, “Smells just like home.” This recipe makes enough for four as an appetizer or dinner for two. We serve it with crusty toasted bread made with a little of our garlic butter for a more substantial meal.
From Jack’s Wife Freda: Cooking From New York’s West Village by Maya and Dean Jankelowitz. Recipes by Julia Jaksic. Published by Blue Rider Press, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2016 by NoamBennyLLC
- Cut any green stalks off the fennel and discard any outer discolored layers if present. Coarsely chop into large pieces. Peel the onion and also coarsely chop into large pieces. Coarsely chop 2 garlic cloves, being careful not to mince them too finely.
- In a medium saucepan, combine 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the fennel bulb, onion, and chopped garlic. Sauté over medium-low heat until the vegetables begin to soften, roughly 10 minutes. Once soft, add the curry, coriander, turmeric, paprika, ground fennel, and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Stir to coat all the vegetables with the spices. Add 2 cups water, turn the heat down to low, and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Transfer everything to a blender and blend on high speed for 1 to 2 minutes, adding an additional 1/4 cup water and 1 tablespoon of the butter. Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer. The mixture should be very smooth, similar to a soup. Season with salt and set aside while preparing the mussels.
- Wash the mussels with very cold water and pull off any beards. If you spot any open mussels, discard them. Mince the remaining 3 garlic cloves. In a very large pot over medium heat, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and the garlic. Immediately add the mussels with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, stirring to combine with the garlic. Add the white wine and cover the mussels for 2 to 3 minutes. Lift the lid and stir; the mussels should be starting to open. Add 1 cup of the fennel sauce and the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and cover.
- After 2 minutes stir again; almost all the mussels should be open. If they are not, return the lid and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Once most of the shells are open, transfer the mussels to a large bowl, pouring all the liquid on top of the mussels. If you prefer additional sauce, reheat and pour over the mussels.