Mussels cooked with pastis

The song of cicadas

Pastis is this anise-flavored alcohol that is originated from the Marseilles area and drunk everywhere in France. Its bright yellow color is synonym of sun and and when you drink it, you can hear the song of the cicadas. Although I am not from Marseilles, I have been exposed to, and I have loved, Pastis for quite a while, so long as it would be illegal here to mention at which age I had my first pastis, possibly in the officer's mess of Épinal where my grandfather had naturally access, as a retired colonel of the French army, a WWII vet and a war prisoner. Given that Épinal is in Lorraine, in the East of France, you see that we are away from the mentioned song of cicadas... But the truth is that I have (almost) always loved Pastis, probably because as love anise and all its variations, liquorice, fennel, aneth, dill, tarragon, celery... not mentioning ouzo, anisette...

Also, I have always loved mussels and as far as I remember, from my child's vacations in the Bassin d'Arcachon and the Île d'Oléron, both famous oyster and mussel cradles on the French Atlantic coast, there were always mussels. Since then, I eat and cook mussels on various forms, marinières, mouclade (with crème fraîche, among other things), farcies (stuffed with garlic, parsley and butter), églade (cooked under flamed pine needles)... I will certainly come back on those recipes in this blog, sooner or later.

That said, I have never thought of associating mussels and pastis, although this is of course a staple of the Provençale cuisine. But there were those beautiful wild black mussels from Maine, and after I made those mint-pesto stuffed sardines the other, day, moules au pastis was undoubtedly the ideal entree to follow the sardines starter...


(two servings)
  • A bag of Maine mussels, i.e, probably 2/3 lbs.
  • 1/2 glass of Pastis (Pernod 45, Ricard or Pastis 51, to quote the most famous brands)
  • 1/2 onion thinly sliced
  • 2/3 fennel outside leaves and fennel greens
  • 1 Celery stem
  • Olive oil
  • Fennel seeds
  • Thyme, oregano (and rosemary, savory... in season)
  • Cayenne
  • Salt
  • A few fingerling and redskin potatoes, as a side


  • Clean and rinse the mussels as need
  • Heat up the olive oil in a pot, with the onion, the fennel, the herbs... so that the oil traps all their flavors
  • Add the half glass of Pastis and let the whole boil 1 or 2 minutes to evaporate the alcohol (you can also flambé it)
  • Put the mussels into the pot and stir them up, cover and let simmer at medium low for around 5 minutes
  • As the bottom mussels start to open, stir them up so that the top mussels open too, and so that all of them bath in the pastis juice
  • Stir up regularly till all the mussels open
  • Serve in a plate with the potatoes previously baked in a foil papillotte with olive oil and herbs
  • Recuperate the FABULOUS cooking juice, strain it and spread it generously  on the mussels and the potatoes, with a few fennel feather greens, some blanched celery segments and pink pepper corns, for the taste and the colors
  • To savor with a Rosé de Provence