Mussels and saffron are destined to accompany each other. But curry powder is almost as good, as the popular seaside French mussel dish known as mouclade has long proven. The challenge when making shellfish soups is getting your hands on plenty of shellfish steaming liquid. You will need about 8 pounds mussels (which aren’t expensive) to get the 4 cups of liquid called for here, leaving you with mussels for making the Cold Mussel Salad with Capers and Dill. Ideally, you will prepare the salad a few days ahead of time, and save the steaming liquid in the fridge or freezer. This soup contains cream that can be used sparingly, but don’t leave it out completely. It is essential for pulling together the flavors of the sea and the saffron.
– 8 pounds mussels.
– 2 cups dry white wine.
– 3 shallots, minced.
– 1 clove garlic, minced and then crushed with the side of the knife.
– 3 sprigs thyme, or ¼ teaspoon dried thyme.
– 1 teaspoon saffron threads, soaked in 1 tablespoon water for 30 minutes, or 1 tablespoon curry powder.
– 1 tablespoon butter if using curry powder.
– 1 cup heavy cream.
Step 1:Scrub the mussels, push the sides in opposite directions to eliminate dead ones, rinse thoroughly, and set aside.
Step 2:Select a pot large enough so that the mussels will reach no higher than two-thirds up the sides. Combine the wine, shallots, garlic, and thyme in thepot, cover, bring to a simmer over low heat, and simmer for 5 minutes.
Step 3:Add the mussels all at once, cover the pot, raise the heat to high, bring to a boil, and boil for 4 minutes. Holding the lid in place with a kitchen towel, shake the pot with a rotating motion to redistribute the mussels, so those that were on the bottom are now on the top. Steam for 4 to 6 minutes more, and then check to see if all the mussels have opened. They should be fully opened and each mussel should be in one shell, not stretched out between two. If they are not fully cooked, they will tear as they are pulled out of the shells.
Step 4:Use a spider or skimmer to transfer the mussels to a large bowl, let them cool, and then remove them from their shells, discarding any beards you find. Pour the steaming liquid in the bottom of the pot into a storage container—or into a saucepan if you are making the soup right away— leaving any grit behind in the pot. Refrigerate the mussels for another use.
Step 5:Bring the steaming liquid to a simmer and add the saffron and its soaking water. If you are using the curry powder, cook it in the butter in a small sauté pan or skillet over medium heat for about 1 minute, or until it smells fragrant, and then add it to the steaming liquid. Stir in the cream, season with salt—which may not be necessary, as the mussel liquid may already be salty enough—and pepper, and serve in warmed soup plates.