Kasper says this is French bistro. And it is. It is also Italian. It evokes memories of my family's home in Port Washington, Long Island - where I would leave Manhattan to sit by the docks during sunsets. And sometime after sunrise (I worked in theatre remember and did not get up for sunrises), we would walk down to the docks get a bucket of mussels. Always done with wine and herbs - sometimes with butter - sometimes with cream - every variation sang spring. And still does.
Saffron - can you take a humble dish and elevate it any better? It adds richness, color and depth. Just taking the strand and crumbling them into the broth makes me feel as if I am partaking with gods through the ages.
Spring.... even with snow expected and the fact that there is a mouse invasion (aren't they supposed to come in the autumn) it is blessed spring. And eating light is not a hardship but a desire.
Spring Mussels with Saffron - serves 3-4 (adapted from Lynne Rossetto Kasper)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 large shallots (I used 3) finely chopped
2 branches fresh thyme
Salt and fresh-ground black pepper
1 small garlic clove, minced
2/3 cup dry white wine
1 pinch of saffron (I lived it up and used two pinches)
1 plum tomato, chopped
1 cup water
4 pounds mussels, rinsed and debearded
1/4 cup fresh Chopped Italian parsley
- Heat the oil in a large stockpot.
- Set it over medium-high heat and stir in the shallots, thyme, a light sprinkling of salt, and pepper.
- Reduce the heat to medium low, cover the pot, and steam the shallots 4 to 5 minutes, or until they're soft and clear. Don't let them brown.
- Return the heat to medium high. Stir in the garlic, saffron, chopped tomato and wine. Boil the wine until two-thirds of it evaporates.
- Pour in the water, bring it to a simmer, and add the mussels. Cover the pot, turn the heat down to medium, and cook them for 5 minutes.
- Once the shells open an inch, the mussels are ready. Immediately lift them out with tongs into soup bowls.
- Cook any not fully opened mussels for another 2 minutes. Discard unopened ones. Pile the remaining mussels in the soup bowls and pour in their liquid and sprinkle with parsley.
It's spring without the allergies and mice.* It speaks of open water and not ice. It begs you to slurp and savor.
*A someone who catches mice with Tupperware (let's not talk about Pip the cat who asks the mice if they will play with him), I no longer practice "catch and release" with them. My vet assures me I have to drive the Mouse-face 4 miles away or he will get back to my home. Homing pigeons... homing mice? I draw the line at chauffeuring mice.