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<em>Fish</em> photograph by Antonis Achilleos
Mussels with Cream, Saffron and Angel Hair
From Fish by Cree LeFavour
(Chronicle Books, 2013, $27.50)
The flavor of these plump bivalves is brilliant when gently paired with butter, cream and spices. Saffron and mussels are as natural together as oysters and Champagne. Add a little cream, a bit of crispy fennel, and some delicate pasta, and you have a luxurious yet uncomplicated meal.
- 3 lb. mussels, cleaned and debearded, if necessary
- 1 cup white wine
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 small shallot, chopped
- 6 strips lemon zest, julienned
- 6 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 lb. angel hair pasta, cooked in boiling, salted water until al dente
- 3 tbsp. butter
- 1 fennel bulb, tough outer layer removed, slivered, with fennel fronds removed
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 to 2 tsp. saffron, lightly crushed
- 1⁄4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- Flaky or coarse salt and black pepper
In a large Dutch oven or pot with a lid, combine the mussels, white wine, garlic, shallot, lemon zest and thyme, and set over high heat for 10 minutes or until all the mussels are open. (Discard any that have not opened.) Turn off the heat and use tongs or a slotted spoon to transfer the mussels to a mixing bowl. Reserve the cooking liquid in the pot. Once the mussels are cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the shells and set aside. (Discard the shells.) Once the pasta has cooked, toss it with the butter. Set aside.
Return the cooking liquid from the mussels to medium heat and reduce for 5 minutes, or until about 1-1⁄2 cups of liquid remain. Add the fennel bulb, cream and saffron, and reduce for 2-3 minutes over high heat. Just before serving, add the parsley and return the mussels to the sauce to reheat. Line four pasta bowls with pasta and portion out the sauce and mussels over the top. Finish with the fennel fronds, lightly torn, a pinch of flaky or coarse salt, and a generous grind of black pepper. Serves 4.
2012 CHATEAU DU JAUNAY MUSCADET SEVRE
In order to be given the moniker “Muscadet,” this wine must come from France’s Loire Valley. The French have had plenty of time to perfect this vino made with Melon de Bourgogne, a grape introduced to the Valley in the early 17th century.
The 2012 Chateau du Jaunay Muscadet Sevre is a wine that can be found locally for under $12 a bottle, which is a steal for such a good French white. The low alcohol content (it has to be less than 12 percent, by law) and acidity allows it to pair amazingly well with mussels, oysters and lobster. Crisp and light-bodied with flavors of melon, grapefruit and lime, it features a completely different profile from a California-grown white wine; instead, it’s more similar to a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. For a pleasant (and palate) surprise, pair it with this month’s Mussels with Cream, Saffron and Angel Hair.
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Wine photo by Aaron Roseli, © Style Media Group.