Carlsbad Aquafarm is a new addition to the Orange Farmers' Market on Saturday mornings, and a great resource for Orange County. They sell oysters, clams and mussels, farmed responsibly, with as much information as someone interested in sustainable seafood could want.
Their mussels are the plumpest, sweetest mussels I've been able to buy as a consumer; add to this that they're farmed sustainably ("best choice" according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch) and they're cheap--just $5 a pound--and there should be lines for the bags.
Recipes abound for mussels--I need to talk to Shuji about smoking some of them--but the simplest preparation involves just acid, aromatics and herbs. It takes just twenty minutes, ten minutes of which is cleaning the mussels. The scent of this dish is intoxicating; the result is not licorice-flavored; the Pernod provides an underlying layer of flavor and is not dominant.
While French fries are the traditional accompaniment, I love to have a piece of crusty bread to sop up the steaming mussel liquor.
1 1/2 cups white wine (Riesling works well, but so does Chardonnay)
1/4 cup pastis, Pernod, ouzo or other anise-flavored liqueur
2 pounds mussels
1 tomato, chopped roughly
1/2 shallot or 1/4 onion, minced
1/4 loosely packed cup chopped parsley (substitute any herb you like)
1. Wash the mussels in cold water with a scrub brush. Discard any that are open and don't remain closed when tapped shut.
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2. Using a clean pair of needlenose pliers or something similar, grab the "fur" that may be protruding out from the closed mussel. Rip this fur--called the beard--out and discard. (Don't put this down the garbage disposal; it won't work.)
3. Place the wine and pastis in a lidded pot, then add the mussels. Add the tomatoes, shallots or onions, and herbs, a pinch of salt and some grindings of good black pepper, lid the pot, and set over medium-high heat.
4. When the wine boils, count slowly to thirty, then turn off the heat.
5. Serve in bowls with crusty baguette or French fries. Discard any mussels that haven't opened during the cooking.