Mussels in Saffron Cream

Photo by Ian McCausland

2 lbs. fresh mussels
½ cup dry white wine
1 tsp. saffron*
¼ cup butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 shallot, diced
2 gloves garlic, minced
2 lemons, zested and juiced
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
2 cups whipping cream
½ cup cilantro, chopped (optional)
2 tbsp capers, drained & smashed (optional)
2 tbsp tomatoes, finely diced
1 baguette, sliced and grilled for additional flavour

* The amount of saffron you use will depend on the quality of your saffron. If you are lucky enough to find Spanish saffron, one healthy pinch will do.

Rinse the mussels in a colander under cold water. Once clean, put the colander on a plate and keep them in the fridge until ready to toss in the sauce.

Add saffron to the white wine and set aside. Let the saffron steep (like tea) for at least 10–15 minutes while you chop the onions, shallot, & garlic, and zest & juice the lemons.

In a large Dutch oven or soup pot, melt the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add diced onions and sauté until translucent, approximately 6 minutes, stirring often (do not brown the onions). Add the shallots and sauté for about 3 minutes until soft. Add minced garlic and sauté until fragrant, 1 minute. Add the white wine and saffron mixture and stir until combined. Add the juice and zest of 2 lemons and stir until combined. Add salt & pepper.

Slowly add the whipping cream to the mixture and continue to stir. Slowly bring the whipping cream mixture to a boil on medium heat. Continue stirring and reduce the heat to just under medium to take the boiling down to a simmer. Simmer the sauce while stirring until it is reduced by half and coats the back of a spoon (approximately 20 minutes).

Once the sauce is thickened, add the cleaned mussels to the sauce and stir once or twice to coat the mussels. Cover the pots and let it steam over medium heat for 4 minutes. Do not overcook! Remove the lid and add the smashed capers. Stir to combine.

Slowly pour the mussels into a large serving bowl and garnish with chopped cilantro and diced tomatoes (do not stir). Serve with grilled baguette and make sure to have an empty bowl on hand for the mussel shells.

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