Mussels in Tomato–Saffron Broth/Moules Provencales

If you’ve never made mussels before, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is. Buy the freshest mussels possible,preferably the day you’re using them. If your local purveyor only sells muscles in a mesh bag, buy more than you need, as the bags make it seem as if all the mussels crammed into it are closed (living), but this isn’t always the case. Scrub mussels with a clean kitchen brush and rinse under cold water. Use only mussels that are closed and have no cracks. (If a mussel is only slightly open, tap it on the kitchen counter; if it closes up within a minute or two, it is safe to use.)

¼ cup (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
2 teaspoons fresh oregano
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed in
a mortar to release aroma
¼ teaspoon saffron
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon fresh orange zest
½ pound (225 g) tomatoes,
peeled and diced
2 cups (475 ml) Seafood Stock
(see page 183)
½ teaspoon unrefined sea salt or
salt, to taste
Freshly ground pepper
1 pound (455 g) fresh mussels,
scrubbed and beards removed
¼ cup (15 g) fresh parsley, finely
chopped, for garnish
Yield: 4 servings

Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the thyme,
oregano, fennel, saffron, garlic, and orange zest, and cook, uncovered,
until the garlic begins to release its aroma, 1 to 2 minutes.
Stir in the tomatoes, stock, salt, and pepper, and bring to a boil over
high heat.
Stir, add in the mussels, cover, and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, until
the mussels are open completely. Resist the urge to open the cover and
check the mussels often. Each time you release steam it adds on to the
cooking time and could yield tough mussels. I usually check the first time
by carefully removing the lid with the steam releasing away from me. If
mussels aren’t open, I quickly recover them, and allow them to cook for a
few more minutes.
When mussels are ready, they are completely open. If you have some
open mussels and other closed ones, remove the cooked ones with a ladle
and allow the rest to continue to cook. If any still refuse to open after
10 minutes, discard them.
Taste the broth, and adjust salt and pepper if necessary. Pour into
individual cups or bowls, and add mussels. Sprinkle the tops with fresh
parsley. I like to serve it with toasted bread crostini slathered with Aioli
Herb Sauce.

Mediterranean Tradition
The ingredients in this recipe are based on my favorite version of the
classic southern French seafood stew, bouillabaisse. To make your own
seafood stew, simply double the ingredients for the broth used above.
In addition to the pound (455 g) of mussels, add ½ pound (225 g)
shelled shrimp, ½ pound (225 g) firm white fish, such as cod or halibut,
cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) cubes into the pot at the same time that you
add the mussels. Everything should be done at the same time, and
you’ll have a Mediterranean seafood feast in minutes.


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