Jan has requested steamed mussels for Mothers day. I wanted to turn it into a soup or mussels and cannellini beans, but she wants only steamed mussels. I decided to do a slimmed down variation of the French Saffron Mussel Soup. To go with the mussels, in addition to toasted rustic bread, I plan to make a wild rice salad.
Note: This recipe is for 3-4 people as a main dish. To scale it up for more people, add one pound of mussels per person.
Karl’s Saffron Steamed Mussels
3 lbs. mussels
3 Tbs. unsalted butter, separate uses
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 small leek, white part only, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 Tbs. Italian parsley, coarsely chopped, separate uses
1 tsp. thyme
1 bay leaf
½ tsp. black pepper
1½ cups dry white wine
Pinch of saffron, about 40-50 strands, powered and put in one tablespoon of hot water.
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. cornstarch mixed with one tablespoon of wine (optional)
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 the shallots in the butter in a large soup pot, until soft but not starting to color, about five minutes.
3. Add the leek and celery and continue cooking until soft, about 4-5 more minutes.
4. Pull the vegetables to the side of the pot and add the garlic to the hole in the center and sauté one minute more, until fragrant.
5. Add two tablespoons of parsley, thyme, bay leaf, pepper, wine and saffron to the pot and bring the pot to a boil.
Tip: The liquid from the mussels is naturally salty so additional salt generally will not be necessary, but may be added to suit your own taste.
Note: I am using a dry Spanish white, La Granja 360 Verdejo Viura, from Trader Joe’s. It has a light delicate flavor, kind of halfway between a Riesling and a Chardonnay, which should go well with shellfish.
6. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, on medium for five minutes.
7. Stir in the mussels and put the lid back on the pot. Cook for five minutes.
8. Stir the pot to mix the sauce into the open mussels and continue cooking, covered until all of the mussels are open, about another five minutes.
Tip: If you are brave enough and your pot has two handles and a tight fitting lid, lay a towel over the lid and pick up the pot by both handles. Holding the lid down with your thumbs, mix the mussels and sauce with a jerking tossing motion. This process allows you to mix the ingredients without losing the steam.
9. Sprinkle the lemon juice over the mussels and transfer the open mussels to individual serving bowls.
10. Spoon the remaining sauce over the mussels and garnish with the reserved parsley. Serve with toasted rustic bread.
Tip: If you wish, use the cornstarch to thicken the sauce that remains in the pot before pouring it over the mussels.
Note: Don’t forget to put an empty bowl on the table to receive the shells as the mussels are eaten.