I never tasted mussels before arriving in Paris as a young woman. They just weren’t available far from the sea in the American Midwest, where I grew up. But even though Paris is about two hours by road from the nearest coastline (the Channel), all kinds of ultrafresh seafood can be found in abundance here. Mussels are cheap, easy to prepare and they delight the palate with their slightly sweet and nutty flavor. They marry well with other tastes, including spices like curry or, as in this soup, saffron.
Soupe de moules au safran / Mussel soup with saffron
Saffron is, of course, expensive, but the amount needed for this recipe won’t break the bank. Counter to standard wisdom, I prefer powdered saffron to the stringy kind — it’s easier to use and, in my view, just as flavorful. Saffron is pricey because it comes from a type of crocus that lives for a single day — the threads must be harvested on that day, and within a window of a couple of hours! It is one of my favorite spices, redolent of the luxury of Arabian nights. The way it enhances mussels is magical. Try it and see.