Some of you know how much I love to cook. When I’m done writing at the end of the day, cooking something exciting often feels like the most fun way to wind down. To me, cooking is the opposite of writing: where writing is sedentary and brain-draining…cooking is hands-on and can be done with a clear, calm mind.
My husband Jason loves saffron, so for Christmas one year, I got him a book called the Essential Saffron Companion. Here’s our favorite special-occasion recipe from the book. It take some time and effort but it’s worth it!
Mussels in Saffron Cream with Noodles
40-50 saffron filaments infused in 2tbs (30ml) of warm (not boiling) white wine*
40 large mussels (green lipped ones work great)
6oz (150 g) unsalted butter
3tbs (45ml) chopped onion
3tbs (45ml) chopped flat leaf parsley
1/2 bottle dry white wine
2 shallots, diced
2tsp (10 ml) tomato puree
8oz (250 ml) mussel stock
4oz (175 ml) heavy cream
juice of one small lemon
To cook the mussels:
Scrub and de-beard the mussels. In a heavy pan, melt 2oz (50g) butter, add onions, parsley, half the wine. Bring to a boil and add the mussels. Cook, shaking the pan periodically until the mussels open (time will vary depending on what kind of mussels you use..anywhere between 5 and 10 minutes). Discard any that do not open. Remove each mussle from the pan and into a bowl with a slotted spoon to ensure that the juices remain in the pan. Reduce the contents of the pan for two minutes, then strain the mussel stock and reserve.
To make the sauce:
Sweat the shallots in 2oz butter for 5 minutes. Add the tomato puree, half of the saffron, and the rest of the wine. Add the reserved mussel stock and reduce everything in the pan by half (maybe 10 minutes of cooking on medium). Taste, season with salt and pepper to taste, remove from heat for a few minutes. Add the cream and reduce again if needed, adding a little lemon juice to taste.
Cook your preferred type of noodles. (On an ambitious day, we’ll make homemade paparadelle using a pasta maker, but fresh store bought noodles will work great, too.) Bring the sauce to a simmer and stir in the remaining saffron and the last 2 oz of butter. Place the mussels back in the sauce pan to warm them. Pile pasta on plates or bowl, add ten mussels per serving, then divide the sauce over the dishes. Garnish with chopped chives or parsley.
*I’ve been using this incredible Iranian saffron that I was so excited to buy from the spice bazaar in Istanbul last fall. But you can use powdered saffron or any kind of filaments infused for 1/2 hour to an hour in warm wine.
We travel frequently for work, so sometimes it can feel like a special treat to stay in and cook together. I have a feeling that’s just what we’ll be doing this Valentine’s Day.
Do you have any favorite romantic recipes?
Until tomorrow (and you KNOW what tomorrow is!)