September 11, 2013
By Haan Ridell
Mytilus edulis, also known as the common mussel, is a medium-sized edible “marine bivalve mollusc” in the family Mytilidae, or simply, mussels. I sure most of you have had Moules-frites when in France, but the dish is actually from Belgium, and dates back as far as the 1700’s.
Saffron is a spice derived from the flower of Crocus sativus, commonly known as the saffron crocus. Saffron has a grand 4000 years of documented history, as it started as a medicinal ingredient (as many spices do). It was also used in religious rituals and as perfumes in the ancient Egypt.
Spain is well known for using saffron in their cooking, but back over in good old Sweden we use it in the beginning if December in Saint Lucia buns. I also usually use it for my mussels, spicy shrimps, and when I cook Moroccan food.
This is a homemade, Spanish-inspired version of Moules-frites, which I eat a lot since the coastlines of my Lilliput Land (Denmark) is full of these little blue sweethearts. You can always get them here freshly from the fishmonger, and today’s catch is from a little small island called Rømø (pronounced Roe-moe).
You can have it alone as a starter, lunch, or as dinner with pasta, like I’m doing today.
First thing is to make sure the little blue ones are alive. Knock on their shells, and they should close up, otherwise they’re no good. Rinse and put in a bowl of cold water until you start steaming them.
You’ll also need GOOD olive oil, a couple cloves of garlic, some chili (I use Thai chili), a glass (or two) of white wine, lime, parsley, dill, and some delicious pasta. If you’re not a dill person like I am, just use whatever herbs you like really. I used 5 grams, a package size here in Scandinavia, costs about $8. I have seen saffron in Whole Foods in the States.
I use Martelli spaghetti — brought home straight from Italy. This one is a bit thicker and very long, which goes very well with the slurppy mussel sauce.
While you boil your pasta, start by frying the garlic and chili in the olive oil:
When it starts to smell fantastic, add a glass of wine and let it boil altogether. Make sure the wine you add is good enough to drink!
It’s time to prepare the mussels: drain them of the cold water and in they go into the chili-garlic-wine sauce. The wine should be boiling, since you want the mussels to start steaming right away.
When the poor little bastards are opening up and have all gone to mussel heaven, add the saffron, stir in and let your nose have an orgasm. It smells so good. The sauce will turn its signature saffron yellow.
Make sure all the mussels are opened up, fish up all the shells, put in a bowl, and put the saffron liquid back on the stove and heat up.
Almost time to eat now! Mix in the spaghetti with the sauce:
Add the herbs:
Add the mussels:
Et voila! It’s done.
I had a little bottle of South African Sauvignon Blanc with the dish, but a good cold beer isn’t to bad either.
I hope you enjoy this dish. Bon appetite!
*Haan is an air steward, chef and sci-fi geek, traveling all over the globe in an Airbus 340 spaceship. Boyfriends are boring so he cooks instead! Supermarkets in the far corners of the Earth, stoneware, and the occasional Star Wars convention rock his world.