Mussel Bisque with Saffron
- 5 lb. mussels, well scrubbed
- 2 cups dry white wine
- About 4 cups water or fish broth
- 4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 cup chopped leek or yellow onion
- 1/2 cup chopped fennel (optional)
- 1 cup peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes (fresh or canned)
- 2 cups peeled and diced red potato
- 1 tsp. saffron threads, steeped in 1/4 cup dry sherry
- 1 orange zest strip, 3 inches long
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, heated
- Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 3 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or chervil
In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the leek and fennel, if using, and sauté, stirring occasionally, until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, potato, saffron and sherry, orange zest and the remaining 5 cups cooking liquid. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the potato is soft, about 20 minutes.
Select 18 to 24 perfect mussels for garnish and add the rest to the soup, along with the liquid in the bowl. Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve placed over a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the cream and reheat very gently over very low heat, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Ladle into warmed bowls. Garnish with the reserved whole mussels and the parsley and serve immediately.