I cleaned up the mussels a little bit before starting to cook, discarding the ones that were open and removing their beards. I had to call my mom during this process asking if all the open ones were really dead. She told me to poke them, which I did, and some closed themselves right up. So now I know. She also promised that the beard removal doesn't hurt the mussels, but I think it still probably lets them know that they're in for something unpleasant.
I brought some water to a boil with garlic cloves, chopped onions, and a bay leaf, and then tossed in the mussels until they had all opened.
The meat gets removed from each mussel and set them aside with a little olive oil so that they don't dry out.
Strain the remaining broth to get rid of any grit left by the mussels.
Next up, sauté more onion and garlic in olive oil until they're soft and then add in chopped fennel, tomatoes, and thyme.
Once the tomatoes have released some of their juices, add the strained broth back in as well as some white wine. Toss in broken spaghetti and cook until tender.
Add the mussels back into the soup, just long enough to heat them, and then serve, topped with parsley and a little bit of cheese.
This was quite lovely, although I think it had too much wine in it. I halved the recipe, which I think is difficult to do with soups in general. Still, I really enjoyed the flavors, the mussels were tasty, and the spaghetti was a pleasant surprise.
I'd definitely make this again, but would make the full recipe.
tomato -- $1.97
onion -- $.89
fennel -- $2.54
mussels -- $4.19
wine -- $7.49 (most was just for drinking with the meal)
Total Cost of Mussel Soup from the South of France: $17.08
($5.69 per serving)