Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Spring Mussels with Saffron

When Paul was last in Italy there was a hotly contested debate - are the mussels better in Bari or Genoa or in Naples? Paul deftly remained unopinionated. It reminded me of Aunt Fay's infamous question, "Whose lasagna do you like better? Mine or Aunt Roses's" No cousin dared to answer that. We learned diplomacy early in my family. But if you can stand one more easy mussel recipe - this is from Lynne Rossetto Kasper's How to Eat Supper. I got hooked on Lynne Rossetto Kasper during the many years I worked in Hudson, WI and had quite a commute. I looked forward to my Saturday drive home from rehearsal - because it was during Kasper's MPR radio show The Splendid Table. Where she leads I will follow. There was no better way to unwind after four-six hours with 20+ junior high school performers than by listening to food talk.
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

`



  1. Heat the oil in a large stockpot.

  2. Set it over medium-high heat and stir in the shallots, thyme, a light sprinkling of salt, and pepper.

  3. 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.

  4. Return the heat to medium high. Stir in the garlic, saffron, chopped tomato and wine. Boil the wine until two-thirds of it evaporates.

  5. 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.

  6. Once the shells open an inch, the mussels are ready. Immediately lift them out with tongs into soup bowls.

  7. 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.


But the best part of enjoying mussels after a day of chasing mice and chastising the cat? Slurping. Slurping may be a synonym for spring.

49 comments:

Chris's Gourmet Fashion said...

What a talented writer you are! Love this dish reminds me of those wonderful, lazy, Mediterranean summers ... sans the thyme of course to which I am alergic ... the mice ... that for us is a battle still to ccme but we have mouse-proofed our vegetable garden, or so we think.

Anna Johnston said...

Oh I love this dish, it always manages to creep onto my menu's. Its such a tasty delicious simple meal. Oh yeasss... I haven't had it for ages, Im going to cook for dinner tomorrow night. :)

Pegasuslegend said...

Looks like one to put on the list, we have been making lots of mussels and fish is just a staple here on our menu's(dieting time)I am in awe how the mussels are white yellow or red in your picture, mine were all red... wondering what the difference is? Yours are colorful and so much prettier that way, very pleasing to the eye! Have a great week Claudia!

Mister Meatball said...

Lovely, as usual. However, why is there but a morsel of bread in evidence?

Slurping is good, I agree. But dunking is better, no?

Beth said...

It's always best to practice diplomacy when confronted with the question of whose lasagna is better. And I'm sorry to hear about those mice. I'm not afraid of much, but I hate mice!

Claire Gallam said...

These are beautiful!

Ciao Chow Linda said...

delicious looking mussels, but it's even more of a delight to read your prose.

Mary said...

I so love mussels and this sounds like a recipe that should be added to my collection post haste. All who have cats understand the line must be drawn somewhere. You are with friends here:-). This is a terrific recipe and I think I know what I'll be making for dinner tonight. Have a great day. Blessings...Mary

That Girl said...

I can't eat mussels (allergic) but I can still remember the smell of the saffron mussels my husband ordered at a little Belgian restaurant we went to!

FOODESSA said...

The word 'different' always seems more diplomatic than 'better'. However, if you push me for an answer...I'll always say "are you sure you really want to know"? Hence, the consequences of being purely honest ;o)

Mice...2 years in a row to be found in my very immaculately clean house. Apparently, it didn't matter because they just found their way in through what we later found out to be a 'Dime' coin thinned space through the cable wire hole from the exterior. Who knew they could thin themselves out that way!

Back to better topics...food for humans and a great mussel dish indeed. Bring out the crusty bread...I'm inviting myself over ;o)

Here's wishing you better non-pesky mice days.
Ciao, Claudia

Choices said...

I am a big fan of mussels. I love them. I have always thought of cooking them, but I have never been brave enough. So, I just settle for ordering it when we go out. This dish does look yummy, how about some cyber mussels? I wish!
Smiles.

5 Star Foodie said...

Amazing flavors in these mussels, the saffron addition is terrific!

Leanna @ Raptortoe said...

Oh this looks so delicious!!

tasteofbeirut said...

Totally with you on that one! Easy but with saffron sublime! I am reminded thanks to you that mussels have been in absentia around here.

Juliana said...

Claudia, I love mussels, and yours prepared with saffron looks fabulous. I'd not leave on drop of the sauce on the plate...yummie! Hope you are having a great week!

Rebecca from Chow and Chatter said...

wow what a wonderful spring meal

Kim said...

This is a truly beautiful dish Claudia. I'm glad you lived it up with double the saffron. You certainly deserve it after all the snow you got over the winter. Hooray Spring!

Reeni said...

Those look so good Claudia! Yet I don't like them...I wish I did! We have a mouse too even with two cats in the house...not a very smart mouse.

Proud Italian Cook said...

I would so enjoy slurping up some of your beautiful mussels! Love the last shot!

Angela said...

Saffron is one of my favorite things of all time - beautiful and tasty. I always get mine at the Indian grocery store.

Bo said...

Beautiful photos...Beautiful writing...Simple dish, but just delicious. ps I have a special place in my heart for rodents...for a couple years I had a couple rats as pets...not as a child either...they were spoiled and very well fed, they grew very large...but they were very sweet...so I recommend catch and keep. They make great pets.

natalia said...

Cara Claudia, to confuse Paul even more I suggest mussels from Sardegna ! I love this recipe and will make it as soon as I get hold of any cozze ! no clue with mice but chauffering them had me laugh !

Eva said...

It is so funny you post this as I have been craving mussels like crazy these past few days! I know costo sells them and they're not too far from my place, I'll have to stop over and pick some up asap. This recipe sounds completely fantastic, I'm looking over the ingredient list and loving everything in sight!

Angie's Recipes said...

I love mussels, but I am never good in cooking them. I love this with saffron. Looks so fresh and tasty!

Island Vittles said...

Seafood is on the menu -- it's Spring! Claudia, these look light, yet full of flavour. And that last picture just made me very, very hungry. Theresa

theUngourmet said...

I've never attempted preparing mussels at home, I've only enjoyed them in restaurants. I have to say, they never looked this tasty!

How funny about the mice and your sweet kitty. :) I can picture them playing together like Tom and Jerry.

cajunlicious said...

Beautiful photos. Came across your wonderful blog and am a new follower!!!
- Jessica
http://cajunlicious.blogspot.com

Barbara GF said...

Lovely and light, your mussel dish is a springtime delight! Slurping is definitely a good thing for all seasons, Claudia.

Gera@SweetsFoodsBlog said...

Claudia those mussels with the shiny saffron can beat marks for seafood lovers.

Saffron gives color to any dish - tough it's expensive ;)

Slowly returning to blogging..

Cheers,

Gera

Sandra said...

I am not big fan of mussels but my husband is so I will have to make it..your pictures are just divine, making your dish so delicious!!!

Rebecca from Chow and Chatter said...

I made your carbonara loved it thanks for all amazing recipes :-)

SKIP TO MALOU said...

Hi Claudia,
Thank you for stopping by. It's funny how I thought I left a comment here yesterday when I came to visit your blog, but I guess I didn't? hmmm it's one of those "forgetful-forty" episode again.

I love mussels and this dish definitely spells spring. What a wonderful way of embracing the season!

I hope you are having a wonderful day,
Malou

Torviewtoronto said...

mussles look good haven't had like this before
lovely colour

I Sicilian said...

I remember a time in Sicily when I could eat them raw. They were so fresh and healthy.

Fresh Local and Best said...

I am glad to hear you note the significance of saffron with seafood and cooking in general. Some people do not agree that it is worthwhile given the subtle flavor, but I couldn't disagree more.

Ruth said...

I love mussels anytime, anywhere, any way...but like you I tended to stick to the traditional wine, butter etc. Love this dish. The addition of the saffron seems to add an extra depth and I want to slurp it too. will have to try it. P.s. Maybe the mice chauffering service is not such a bad idea after all, could be the start of a new business venture!

michelangelo in the kitchen said...

I am now totally convinced to make mussels with saffron, no matter how expensive the spice is! Thanks for the delicious idea! Cheers!

Catherine said...

Dear Claudia, I love mussels the way you prepared them. A good loaf of Italian bread for dipping in the broth and as my grandmother would say, "who's better than us!". Well, I also remember the question, "who's meatballs are better Aunt Anna or mine?". Yes, in an Italian family diplomacy is learned at an early age. Blessings, Catherine xo

Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen said...

We love moules. I wonder why I never thought of using saffron? Great idea and wonderful photos Claudia.
Sam

Cake Duchess said...

Love your mice story! I bet the mussels are delicious in Bari, Genoa, and Naples!:) Your mussels look divine, Claudia. I hope you have a lovley weekend!

Monet said...

Oh yes! Ryan and I ADORE mussels, and I download the Splendid Table all the time. Such a good show, such a lovely seafood dish! Thank you for sharing another great meal with me. I hope you have a wonderful weekend, full of laughter and life. You inspire me with your passion and creative soul!

sweetlife said...

I love that you learned diplomacy early, lol

I love mussels and recently made them for my younger brother who had not tried them..he loved them!! thanks for another recipe to share!!


sweetlife

alwayswinner786 said...

I love the use of flavor for this mussels recipe! Simply delicious!

girlichef said...

Oh yeah, gotta love the slurping. This is a beautiful dish that I won't be showing my hubby...cuz he's been asking me to make mussels for probably a year now and I've yet to actually get around to it. One of these days... ;)

Jeannie said...

I would be slurping away all those juicy stuff! If you have found a way to eliminate those pests, please do let me know! Thanks:D

A SPICY PERSPECTIVE said...

Oh Claudia,

Mussels with saffron are MY FAVORITE! I'll be thinking about your post all day. :)

spcookiequeen said...

Feel free to lavish us with simple tasty recipes anytime. So glad you didn't fall into that whose is better trap. I'm having a give away, feel free to stop by if you'd like. Hope you are having a great week.
-Gina-

The Mom Chef said...

Um, if asked which mussels are better in any of those three cities I'd say YES because they're in Italy. It doesn't matter what the city is! :)

The second picture made me want to cry because I couldn't grab through the screen and grab one of those amazing mussels. It looks so, so very fantastic.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

I love mussels and yours look so plump and savory! I'd have to sop up the sauce with a slice (or two) of crusty bread .....mmmmm.