Today, most mussels are farm raised and have only small or no beards—the tuft of fibers they use to hold onto rocks or pilings. To remove a beard, scrape or cut it away with a knife or scissors, or firmly pull down, toward the shell’s hinge end, with your fingertips.
Sauté the vegetables
In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter with the olive oil. Add the onion, garlic and fennel and sauté until the onion is translucent, 2 to 3 minutes.
Steam the mussels
Add the wine, stock and mussels, discarding any mussels that fail to close to the touch. Sprinkle the thyme over the mussels. Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook just until the mussels open, 10 to 12 minutes.
Divide the mussels among warmed shallow bowls, discarding any that failed to open. Season the broth with salt and pepper, ladle into the bowls and serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Food Made Fast Series, Soup, by Georgeanne Brennan (Oxmoor House, 2006).
Originally published on Williams Sonoma, Mussels with Fennel-Herb Broth.