Adapted from French: The Secret of Classic Cooking Made Easy
Jan taught a few classes in Paris during her summer breaks a few years ago. While she was there she picked up a French cook book. She decided that I should make some recipes from it for the French girl while she was here.
The recipes in the book were typical for French cuisine; I could feel my arteries hardening just reading them. As usual, I must adapt them to fit my families many food preferences and requirements—low fat for Jan, low starch for Chris, soft food for Miriam, and no mushrooms for Eilene.
After Dinner Notes: This was an excellent soup. However, I left the cornstarch out for Chris’ diet and I think it would have been better with the thickener. Also, I thought I should have blended the soup to a smoother state, but the table consensus was that they preferred the chunky texture.
Karl’s Saffron Mussel Soup
3 lbs. mussels
3 Tbs. unsalted butter, separate uses
8 shallots, finely chopped
8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
10 parsley stems
2 sprigs thyme
10 black pepper corns
1 cup dry white wine
3 leeks, white parts only, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 carrot, grated
1 fennel bulb
6 cups Karl’s Fish Stock (chicken broth)
Pinch of saffron, powered
2-3 Tbs. of cornstarch (optional)
Pinch of nutmeg, fresh grated
1 cup half and half cream
1 tomato, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
½ tsp. freshly ground pepper (to taste)
½ tsp. salt (to taste)
1. Wash and de-beard the mussels.
Tip: Discard any mussels that do not close when squeezed. This indicates that they are dead.
2. Sauté a third of the shallots in one tablespoon of butter in a large soup pot, until soft but not starting to color.
Tip: You can use a medium pot if it is more comfortable for you and you do not mind the extra cleaning.
3. Add a third of the garlic and sauté one minute more.
4. Add the bouquet garni, pepper corns, and white wine. Bring to a boil and then add the mussels.
Tip: Tie the herbs of the bouquet garni together with a bit of kitchen twine to make them easier to remove later.
5. Cook covered for 3 to 5 minutes, until the mussels have all opened.
Tip: Hold the lid down tightly and toss the contents of the pot occasionally to coat the mussels with the liquid in the pot. Picture a gentle pancake flip, but not so vigorous as to splash the hot liquid out of the pot.
6. Remove the mussels to a bowl and cool.
Tip: Discard any unopened mussels.
7. Set aside the best looking mussels and shells, and remove the meat from the rest. Reserve the mussels until later.
Tip: You want to have one or two mussels in their shells for each of your dinners as a garnish.
8. Strain the liquid and let it settle in a measuring cup. Pour off the liquid, trying to leave any sand in the cup.
Tip: Many recipes would recommend discarding the solids. Personally, I pick out the pepper corns and bouquet garni and return the cleaned solids to the cooking liquid.
9. Rinse the soup pot and sauté the rest of the shallots in the rest of the butter.
10. Add the rest of the garlic, the leek, celery, carrot, and fennel. Continue sautéing until softened.
Tip: Whenever I am planning to blend the soup, or have the carrots breakdown into the sauce, I usually grate them rather than chopping them finely.
11. Add the mussel liquid, one cup of fish stock and the saffron. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat. Simmer for 5 to tem minutes.
Tip: Grind the saffron threads into a power, either with a small mortar and pestle or between your dry fingers.
Tip: If you do not have fish stock you may use low sodium chicken broth.
12. When the vegetables have completely cooked, blend the soup.
Tip: For a smooth soup use a standing blender and process the mixture in batches. I prefer to use an immersion blender and only partially process the soup. The remaining chunks of vegetables give the soup a more interesting texture.
13. Add the rest of the fish stock to the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes.
Tip: Skim off any foam that forms on the surface of the soup.
14. (Optional) Thicken the soup with cornstarch. Slurry the cornstarch in an equal amount of water and add it to the soup, stirring constantly. Cook another two to three minutes, until thickened.
Note: A thick soup is nice, but not necessary. For Chris’ keto diet I try to remove all starch from the dishes designed for him. For everyone else I put the starch on the side (when I can) or I make a separate starch dish so that everyone is happy.
15. Add the reserved mussels, nutmeg, cream, tomato, pepper and salt.
Tip: If you are not overly fat conscious you may use heavy cream instead of half and half.
16. Bring the soup back to a simmer and serve immediately.