Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Seafood Fest Recipe: Eric's Mussels in Smoked Tomato Sauce with Fennel Relish

Ballard Seafood Fest, where we've had a booth the past two years, has one opportunity for bragging rights - the seafood entry. It's not blind like barbecue competitions. 2-3 judges from the Chamber walk around and taste each booth's seafood entry. You get to talk to them about it and hope for that prize - Best of the Fest.

I really thought Eric's entry was going to win this year, He did local mussels, served with a smoked tomato sauce and shaved fennel. Not only did everyone who ate it love it, the judges were licking their plates and kept asking questions. I don't know who won, only that we didn't get a ribbon. We were so slammed with caterings in addition to the fest, that none of us made it to the awards.

Many have asked for the recipe, and I noodled it out of Eric. You know how tight lipped he can be! The key is to smoke the tomatoes. Mmmm.

Eric's Mussels in Smoked Tomato Sauce, topped with Fennel Relish

6 Roma tomatoes, cut in half, lengthwise
Kosher salt
1 fennel bulb, 1/4 shaved thin, rest of bulb diced.
1 small onion
1/2 cup olive oil
2 lbs mussels, cleaned
lemon zest from 2 lemons
Salt & pepper


1) Shave a portion of fennel bulb and save some of the fennel greens. Set aside.

2) Cut Roma tomatoes in half, lengthwise, and salt. Place on rack face up and smoke for 3 hours. Any mild wood will do.

3) Saute onions, olive oil and diced fennel bulb. Add smoked tomatoes and simmer for 2 hours.

4) Make fennel relish with shaved fennel, fennel greens, lemon zest, fresh lemon juice, olive oil and salt & pepper.

5) Add mussels to tomato sauce and steam for 5 minutes until they open. Top mussels with fennel relish.


  1. Subjective contests like that, especially ones that aren't blind, can be extremely unpredictable. I'm glad I don't do competitions and contests all the time because they can be so frustrating.

    1. Thanks, Chris. We don't take it too seriously :). I've never felt the tug to do competitive barbecue though. Seems like an awful lot of fuss, lack of sleep, and expensive to do. I'm also not competitive at all. Sucker for the underdog every time!