I love, love, love fennel and mussels together! And, Valentine's Day seems like the perfect opportunity to indulge in a sinfully decadent soup! Enjoy.
2 pounds mussels, scrubbed, debearded
1 cup dry white wine
5 clove of garlic, whole and peeled
4 cups fish stock
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups fresh fennel bulb, cubed
1/4 cup carrot, peeled and cubed
2 large shallots, chopped
1/4 cup basmati rice
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 sprig of fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon Cognac
Chopped fresh parsley (optional)
Combine mussels, wine and whole cloves of garlic in large pot. Cover; bring to boil. Boil until mussels open, about 5 minutes (discard any that do not open). Transfer mussels to large bowl and pour cooking liquid through strainer into a measuring cup. Add enough fish stock to measure 5 cups. When mussels cool slightly, remove them from shells; place in small bowl. Discard shells. Cover mussels until ready to use.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large stockpot over medium heat. Add fennel cubes and carrot; sauté until fennel is slightly softened, about 10 minutes. Add shallots; sauté until soft, about 4 minutes. Add fish stock mixture, rice, tomato paste, thyme, and bay leaf. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover partially and simmer until rice is tender, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes. Discard bay leaf and thyme. Cool slightly. Working in batches, puree in blender. Return to stockpot.
Add whipping cream, Cognac and mussels; bring to a low simmer. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle bisque into 6 bowls. Garnish with chopped parsley, if desired.
Serve with lots of bread and Sauvignon Blanc.