Mussel and Maple Chowder With Caramelized Fennel

When creating new dishes, I love taking one ingredient–in this case, fennel–and playing with it in different ways. Here I cook the fresh bulb slowly to bring out its charred and caramelized anise notes, before mixing it with rich cream, chunky potatoes, and steamed mussels. Just before serving I dust each bowl of chowder with fennel pollen, which you can buy in speciality food stores. It echoes the anise flavour but adds its own summery hints of citrus and marshmallow.


Image - Mussel and Maple Chowder With Caramelized Fennel
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
40 mins
Course: Main Course
Servings: 4
  • 3 lb live mussels
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 shallot thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic crushed
  • 1 cup white wine or craft beer not too hoppy
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 large bulb fennel diced
  • ¼ cup ½ stick unsalted butter
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 2 stalks celery chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1 Tbsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 cup white wine or craft beer not too hoppy
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • ¾ lb Yukon gold potatoes peeled and diced
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil to drizzle
  • 2 Tbsp pure maple syrup to drizzle
  • ½ tsp fennel pollen for garnish
  • 3 Tbsp chopped fresh chives for garnish
  1. Rinse the mussels under cold water, and discard any that are open and won't close when tapped or that have broken shells. Scrub off any debris and pull off the beard.

  2. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the shallots, and saute for 3 minutes or until softened. Add the garlic and saute for another minute. Add the wine (or beer) and bring to a boil.

  3. Add the mussels, cover, and cook for about 2 minutes or until the shells just open up. (Do not overcook. Mussels cook very quickly. You know they're ready when the shells are open.) 

  4. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the mussels to a baking sheet to cool. Discard any that are unopened.

  5. Strain the cooking liquid through a fine mesh sieve and reserve. Remove the mussels from their shells and place in a bowl.

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the fennel and saute until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

  2. Return the saucepan to medium heat and melt the butter. Add the onions and celery, and saute for 7 minutes or until onions are tender and translucent. Add the garlic and salt and pepper, and saute for another minute until fragrant.

  3. Pour in the wine ( or beer), stirring to scrape up the browned bits. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until the liquid is mostly evaporated. Add the cream, milk, and reserved mussel cooking liquid, and simmer for 20 minutes.

  4. Add the potatoes and corn and cook for 10 minutes or until tender. Add the mussels and cook until heated through. Taste and adjust seasoning with more salt and pepper if desired.

  5. Ladle the chowder into 4 serving bowls, drizzle each with olive oil and maple syrup, and garnish with a sprinkle of fennel pollen and chives.