Our family once had a summer house near Dieppe, on the Normandy coast, and ever since Grandma has loved mussels. Saffron is a natural partner for fish – it colors this fragrant stew a glowing orange-gold. You can try substituting clams for the mussels, but allow more time for them to open over the heat as their shells are thicker.
2 cups/500 ml dry white wine
6 shallots, chopped
Big pinch of saffron threads
3 lb/1.35 kg mussels, washed
2 cups/500 ml single cream
Bunch of chervil or flatleaf parsley (about 2 oz/60 g), chopped
Salt and pepper
1. Put the wine and shallots in a large soup pot and stir in the saffron threads. Cover and simmer for 2 minutes. Rinse the mussels under cold running water and pull off the ‘beards’ with a small knife. Discard any broken shells or open shells that do not close when tapped on the counter. Stir the mussels into the pot, cover and continue cooking just until the shells open, 4-5 minutes, stirring once or twice. Note: if overcooked, the mussels will be tough.
2. Remove the mussels with a slotted spoon and discard any that have not opened. Pour the cooking liquid into a bowl, leaving grit behind. Wipe out the pot, pour the cooking liquid back leaving the grit behind, and stir in the cream and chervil or parsley. Simmer for ½ a minute, taste and adjust the seasoning – salt may not be needed. Stir the mussels into the liquid, heat gently for 1 minute, and spoon the mussels and liquid into large bowls. Serve them at once, very hot, with bowls on the side for discarded shells.