Scrumptious Seafood: Mussels with Saffron and Cream


La Mouclade Vendéenne (Mussels with Saffron and Cream)

Serves 4 as a main course or 8 as an appetizer.

This mussel mouclade recipe originates from the Vendée region of France –  it contains saffron, which gives the cream broth a luxurious flavour.

6 pounds (3 kg) mussels
1 cup (250 mL) dry white wine, such as muscadet
3 tablespoons (45 mL) butter
3 onions (about 1 pound/500 g in total), chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Black pepper
2 tablespoons (30 mL) Cognac
Large pinch of saffron threads soaked in 2 to 3 tablespoons (30 to 45 mL) boiling water
1/2 cup (125 mL) crème fraîche or heavy cream
Salt (if needed)

Beurre manié:
3 tablespoons (45 mL) butter
3 tablespoons (45 mL) flour

Clean the mussels, put them in a large pot and pour in the wine.
Cover and cook over high heat, stirring once, until they open, about 5 minutes.
Transfer the mussels with a draining spoon to a warmed bowl, cover, and keep warm.
Reserve the cooking liquid.

For the sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until soft and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, cayenne and a little black pepper, and cook for another 30 seconds. Stir in the Cognac and the saffron with its liquid. Strain the reserved mussel liquid into the onions.

To thicken the sauce, bring the liquid to a boil and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes until well flavoured.

For the beurre manié, crush the butter on a plate with a fork and work in the flour to form a soft paste. Whisk the paste into the simmering liquid a piece at a time until the sauce coats a spoon lightly. You may not need all the paste. Whisk in the crème fraîche, bring the sauce to a boil, and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning with black pepper, cayenne and Cognac; salt may not be needed, as the mussels are salty.

Pile the mussels in warmed soup bowls, spoon the sauce over top, and serve at once, very hot.

Source: the dish from Anne Willan’s The Country Cooking of France (Chronicle, 2007)

For more mussel recipes and dining ideas read this Montreal Gazzette article on cooking and eating mussels.

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