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“It looks beautiful,” I said to Suzen. “The smell is great.”

“Try one,” she dared me. I passed. Allergies. My next mussel is her next inheritance.

It was Valentine’s Day and Suzen’s feast for class — Bubbles and Bites — was this marvelously rich and beautiful dish form James Peterson. The combination of mussels with saffron and mint was surprising and successful.

Suzen said it tasted as great as it looked. I took her word for it.


Steamed Mussels with Cream, Saffron, and Mint

Yield: 4 first course servings


  • 50 to 60 small cultivated mussels (about 2 pounds [900 g])
  • 1 cup [250 ml] dry white wine
  • 2 medium-size shallots, chopped fine
  • 1 small clove garlic, chopped fine, crushed to a paste with the side of a chef’s knife
  • 1 cup [250 ml] heavy cream
  • 1 pinch saffron threads, soaked for 30 minutes in
  • 1 tablespoon of water
  • 25 fresh mint leaves
  • ½ teaspoon olive oil
  • Pepper
  • Crusty French bread sliced into 1 inch thick pieces



Wash and sort the mussels.

Combine the wine, shallots, and garlic in a pot twice the size of your pile of mussels, cover the pot, and simmer gently for 5 minutes to infuse the flavors into the wine. Put the mussels in the pot, cover the pot, turn the heat to high, and steam for about 4 minutes.

Holding the lid firmly on the pot with a kitchen towel while also holding the pot handles, shake the pot, moving the back side up and toward y o u so the mussels that were on the bottom of the pot are redistributed to the top. Steam for about 2 minutes more, or until all the mussels have opened. Stand back when you remove the lid and don’t put your hand in for a few seconds or the steam can burn you. Scoop the mussels into a large bowl, leaving the steaming liquid behind in the big pot, and keep them warm while you’re making the sauce.

Gently pour the mussel cooking liquid into a saucepan, leaving behind any grit or sand. Add the heavy cream and the saffron and its soaking liquid and bring to the simmer.

Take off and discard the top shell from each of the mussels and divide the mussels among 4 plates. Rub the mint leaves with the olive oil to keep the mint from turning black when you chop it, and chop it fine. Stir the mint into the sauce and season the sauce with pepper.

Ladle the sauce over the mussels in the soup plates, and serve immediately. If the mussels cooled off while they were waiting, rotate each plate of mussels (be sure the plates are ovenproof) under the broiler for 30 seconds or so.

Source: Glorious French Food by James Peterson