Mussel soup with saffron
This light, aromatic soup can be made in 15 minutes or less. The saffron adds a nice complexity to the flavors of mussels and wine, and the soup’s bright yellow color makes it pleasing to the eye.
The mussels must, of course, be very fresh. When you bring them home, place them in an uncovered container in the fridge until ready to cook. This allows them to breathe. For tender mussels, cook them as little as possible, just until the shells open.
1 quart (1 liter) live mussels
1 tbsp. butter
1 cup (1/4 liter) dry white wine
1 cup (1/4 liter) water
1/8 tsp. (2 dosettes) powdered saffron
2 tbsp. crème fraîche or heavy cream
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp. fresh parsley or cilantro, snipped
Clean the mussels under cold water. The beards, which must be removed, resemble seaweed and can be found on the edge that is straight rather than rounded (see photo at right). As you rinse each mussel, take hold of the beard and pull it away. Then place the mussel in a colander. Discard any mussels with cracked shells.
Peel and mince the shallots.
Heat the butter over medium heat in a large, deep pot. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, until wilted, about one minute. Add the mussels and the wine, turn up the heat to high and cover the pot tightly.
Lift the lid to check the mussels after 2-3 minutes. When all the mussels have opened, turn off the heat. Discard any mussels that are still closed, as they may not be fit to eat.
Using a large soup ladle, transfer the mussels to a bowl. Strain their broth through a sieve into a smaller pot and discard the shallots. When the mussels are cool enough to handle, remove them from their shells. Set them aside in a small bowl.
Five minutes before you are ready to serve the soup, add the water to the broth and reheat. When simmering, add the saffron. Whisk in the cream and season with salt and pepper to taste. Just before serving, add the mussels to warm them through. Sprinkle with fresh herbs. Serves 2.