Steamed Mussels with Bayonne Ham

(Moules au Jambon de Bayonne)

Mussels make for a nice change of pace, says Yves Fauchier, for someone who farms oysters for a living.

Steamed Mussels with Bayonne Ham
This recipe is a delicious fennel-scented court bouillon flecked with ham.
Yield: serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1 large fennel bulb with fronds, base trimmed, bulb and fronds chopped
  • 2 medium yellow onions, peeled and chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp. black peppercorns
  • 14 cup white wine
  • 4 lb. mussels, debearded and scrubbed
  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 1 small shallot, peeled and chopped
  • 3 oz. bayonne hamor prosciutto, cut into large dice

Instructions

  1. Put fennel, three-quarters of the onions, one-third of the garlic, lemon, thyme, bay leaves, peppercorns, wine, and 4 cups water into a large pot with a tight-fitting lid and boil over high heat for 2–3 minutes. Add mussels, cover pot, and give pot a good shake to mix mussels and the aromatics together. Steam mussels, giving pot a good shake occasionally, until shells just open, about 10 minutes. Discard any shells that don't open.
  2. Strain mussels through a colander set over a large bowl. Set aside 12 cup of the strained broth, then serve remaining broth, if you like, in cups, adjusting seasonings with a little salt, or save broth for another use. Cover mussels with a clean dishcloth to keep them warm.
  3. Melt butter in same pot over medium heat. Add remaining onions and garlic, shallots, and ham and cook until onions are soft, about 10 minutes. Discard aromatics from pile of mussels in colander, then add mussels to pot. Add reserved 1⁄2 cup broth, cover pot, and shake several times to mix mussels and ham mixture together. Heat mussels over medium heat until warmed through.