Mussel Bouillon with Saffron, Chervil and a Crush of Butternut Squash and Chablis Wine
Since 1996, Elden Selections has imported into the U.S. a curated selection of small, artisan Burgundy wines. Founded by Ellie and Dennis Sherman, food and wine devotees, their online wine shop brings the best of Burgundy to your door.
It also brings great recipes. Ellie, a professionally-trained chef and cookbook author, shares some of her favorite recipes on the site, like this one for mussels with saffron and butternut squash. I plan to serve the dish in my lineup of seven fishes on Christmas Eve, paired with Elden Selections Jean Dauvissat Pre et Fils, Chablis 2016.
Here in France were lucky to have the small, sweet bouchot mussels from the Normandy coast. Highly-prized and plentiful, no other Atlantic mussel is quite so fine. Chervil is used extensively in Burgundian cuisine: as much or more than parsley. It grows well in cool climates. A few chopped sprigs brightens up a finished dish. In this bouillon, its the chervil that binds the flavors of the mussels and the squash. Potimarron is not exactly a pumpkin, at least not the Halloween type. Its more a smallish gourd with firm texture and a spicy, slightly chestnutty flavour. Butternut squash is a good substitute. Mussels should be alive when you cook them. Storing them in a plastic bag will kill them. Rather, put them in a metal bowl, cover with a damp paper towel and refrigerate them until you are ready to soak, clean and cook them. Discard any mussels that float and do not close up when you soak them.
2 lbs small mussels, soaked, scrubbed and de-bearded
Small pinch of saffron threads soaked in cup boiling water
4 shallots, minced
2 cups dry white wine
1/4 cup heavy cream
3 tbsps minced chervil (if unavailable, substitute chives), and several sprigs for garnish
Fine sea salt
1 1/2 lbs cubed, fresh butternut squash
4 tbsps butter
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Fine seal salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Put the shallots and white wine in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and after 3 minutes or so add the mussels. Cover and steam the mussels, stirring once or twice until they have opened. Remove them with a slotted spoon to a large bowl. Pour the liquid into a tall glass measuring cup and let any grit settle. Pour the clear liquid carefully back into the pan. Add the saffron to the mussel juice and reduce over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the cream and chervil. Mussels can be salty, so season to taste. Remove from heat.
Pick three-quarters the mussels from the shells and add them to the bouillon, reserving the rest in the shell for garnish.
Butternut Squash Crush:
In a large saut pan with a tight-fitting lid, put the squash cubes in a half cup of water with a small pinch of salt; simmer, tightly covered, for 20-30 minutes. Uncover and stir from time to time until the squash is soft. You may have to add more water to keep the squash from sticking. When soft and dry, add the butter and crush with a fork. Season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Keep warm, or reheat gently at serving time.
To serve: Have ready six large warm shallow soup bowls. Using a round ring mold, mound a couple of tablespoons of butternut squash crush in the centre of each bowl. Ladle the warm mussel bouillon gently around the squash, and garnish with the reserved mussels in the shell and a few sprigs of chervil.