Saffron gives this dish a Spanish flare reminescent of paella. If you haven’t any saffron, use annatto oil, turmeric or a smoky paprika. Any mussel will work here; blue-black mussels from the Alaskan Kenai Peninsula or North Atlantic seaboard, green-tip mussels from New Zealand, or petite mussels from the Northwest. Make sure all mussels are tightly closed or will close when prodded. If the mussels have not been cleaned, rinse them in cold water and remove the beards. The easiest way to tackle the beards is to take hold of the beard with a cloth and pull it toward the hinged-end of the shell. Remove any barnacles from the shell with a clam knife or the back of a knife blade and rinse in cold water.
Serve this soup with lots of crusty bread to dip in the broth.
Start by making a good fish stock from fish heads and fish carcasses (bones). Use cod, sole, flounder, haddock, halibut, or other white fish. Oily fish such as mackerel, skate, mullet, or salmon are not appropriate for this recipe. You’ll need 1 quart of stock for the Mussel Saffron Soup.
Fish Stock Ingredients:
- 1 Tbsp oil
- 2 onions, chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 4 celery stalks with leaves, chopped
- 2 quarts hot water
- 10 black peppercorns
- 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley
- 2 bay leaf
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 3 whole cloves
- 3 strips lemon rind
- 4-5 lb. fish carcasses with heads, rinsed and chopped into large pieces
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- In a stockpot over medium high heat, saute onions, carrots, and celery in the oil until wilted and fragrant.
- Add fish carcasses and wine. Reduce heat, cover and let sweat for 10 minutes. The carcasses will turn white.
- Add water and remaining ingredients, stir. Heat to a lively simmer over medium high heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
- Skim off the scum from the surface of the soup, remove from heat and let steep until cooled.
- Strain the stock through a fine mesh sieve, chinoise, or cheese cloth. Discard solids. Stock may be frozen. Makes about 2-1/2 quarts.
Mussel Saffron Soup Ingredients:
- 4 Tbsp butter
- 1 cup onion, minced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup carrots, finely shredded
- 1 red chili, seeded, deveined and minced (or 1 tsp Tabasco sauce)
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/4 tsp saffron
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 1/2 lb. tomatoes (2 14oz. cans diced tomatoes, drained)
- 4 cups fish stock (recipe above)
- 2 lb cleaned mussels
- 1/4 cup heavy cream (optional)
- Sea salt and fresh ground white pepper to taste
- Saute onions, garlic, carrots, and chili in butter, over medium high heat, until wilted and fragrant.
- Deglaze pan with wine. Add saffron, thyme, bay leaf, and tomatoes and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Add fish stock and bring to a lively simmer, add mussels, cover and cook for 4-5 minutes until all the mussel shells have opened. Discard any shells that do not open. Remove mussels from the broth before adding the cream if desired.
- Taste and adjust salt and pepper if necessary. (Mussels are salty so the broth may not need additional salt.)
- Ladle broth over mussels in serving bowls. Garnish with fresh parsley.