MUSSELS WITH SAFFRON
Mussels and saffron are one of those almost eerie flavor combinations that really belong together. Everyone has
his or her own like of these. Mine includes tomatoes and basil, of course, and sesame oil with soy sauce, but also
things like chicken with leeks, cumin and red beans, and chocolate raspberries.
Saffron is decidedly exotic. My grandmother was a good cook and a skilled gardener. Perhaps because of this she
was fascinated by saffron — the stamen of a fall blooming crocus that is used as a seasoning. She had a vial of
it on her spice rack that we were allowed to admire, but as far as I remember it was never used. This would have
been in the early 1960s and none of us cold believe that such a tiny speck of it cost seven dollars.
This recipe is an old favorite, very easy and quite elegant. I like to use lots of mussels — 3 cups per person at least.
Serves 4 to 6
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1 pound fettuccini
6 large shallots, peeled and finely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 1/2 dry white wine
3 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon saffron
3-4 pounds live, cleaned mussels in their shells, scrubbed and beard removed
Cook the fettuccini according to the instructions on the package. Put the shallots in a large saucepan with a
tight-fitting lid. Add the wine and reduce over high heat until almost dry (about 5 minutes). Try not to brown
the shallots around the edge of the pan. Add the cream and the saffron.|
Reduce this sauce over medium heat (it will want to boil over) until it is bright yellow and a little bit viscous,
about 10 minutes, depending on the cream. Bring to a hard boil, quickly add the mussels, and cover for a moment.
Bring it back to a simmer and cook only until the mussels begin to just open. They will have emitted a lot of their
own juice at this point, so quickly remove them to their serving dish and crank up the heat under the sauce to reduce
it back down some. Add the cooked fettuccini and toss to coat. Pour the sauce (and pasta) over the mussels and
serve at once. A plain green salad completes a splendid supper.