Steamed Mussels with Sausages and Fennel

Most recipes for steamed mussels call for crusty bread on the side. Here, slices of bread are baked right on top of the mussels. To be sure everyone can enjoy the delicious juices in the bottom of the pans, serve this entrée straight from the cast-iron skillets (use trivets to protect the table).
8 SERVINGS

February 2009

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 pounds sweet or hot Italian link sausages, divided
  • 2 large onions, sliced (about 6 cups), divided
  • 2 large fresh fennel bulbs, sliced (about 6 cups), divided
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed, divided
  • 1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper, divided
  • 3 cups dry white wine (about one 750-ml bottle), divided
  • 6 pounds mussels, scrubbed, debearded
  • 1 16-ounce crusty French or sourdough baguette, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices, divided
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (for drizzling)
  • Chopped fresh Italian parsley

PREPARATION

  • Preheat oven to 450°F. Using fork, pierce sausages all over. Heat each of 2 large cast-iron skillets or other large ovenproof skillets over medium-high heat. Add half of sausages to each skillet and cook meat until browned, turning occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add half of onions, half of fennel, half of garlic, and half of dried crushed red pepper to each skillet. Add 1 cup white wine to each skillet and bring to boil. Cover and simmer until sausages and vegetables are cooked through, about 12 minutes. Add 1/2 cup wine, then 1/2 of mussels to each skillet; transfer skillets to oven and roast uncovered 5 minutes. Carefully remove skillets from oven; top each skillet with enough baguette slices to cover completely. Return skillets to oven; bake uncovered until mussels open and bread slices begin to brown, about 5 minutes longer (discard any mussels that do not open).
  • Drizzle bread in each skillet with extra-virgin olive oil, then sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve mussels and sausages directly from skillets.
  • WHAT TO DRINK

    A soft, medium-bodied red wine is the perfect match for this rich, hearty entrée. We like the Ca' Bianca 2005 "Antè" Barbera d'Asti ($17) from Italy's Piedmont region. The wine's juicy sour-cherry flavors and slight earthiness pair beautifully with the sausages and mussels.