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Breton Billi Bi - {Soupe De Moules Au Safran}

Don't be afraid of picking up those plastic bags full of mussels at the grocery -- the mussels are clean, often debearded, and whip up into a smashing soup in no time. This Breton soup, for example, is pretty easy and quick for being such a showstopping beauty. And it's no wonder: the north coast of Brittany, from which this soup came, is so thick with these shellfish, you can just run down to beach and pick them fresh from the rocks.

Type: Fish
Courses: Soup
Serves: 4 people

Recipe Ingredients

1/2   Dry white white
  (preferably Muscadet, the only wine
  Of Brittany, but dry vermouth is fine)
1   Bouquet garni - consisting of
  Thyme - plus
  Parsley - plus
1   Bay leaf - tied together or
  Wrapped in foil then pierced with a fork
1 cup 237mlWater
2 lbs 908g / 32ozMussels (in the shell)
1/2 teaspoon 2.5mlSaffron
2 tablespoons 30mlButter
2   Leeks, white only - cut into slivers
2   Carrots - peeled, and cut
  Into very fine slivers (like the leeks)
3/4 cup 177mlHeavy cream
2   Egg yolks - beaten
1   Tabasco sauce
  Salt - to taste
  Freshly-ground black pepper - to taste
2 tablespoons 30mlFinely-minced tarragon - for garnish

Recipe Instructions

Mix the wine, bouquet garni, and water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. After you've scrubbed and debearded the mussels, as needed, drop them into the saucepan, cover, and shake them over high heat until they open -- just a few minutes.

Drain them through a sieve lined with coffee filters, catching the broth underneath.

Ladle some of the broth into a bowl with the saffron in it -- and let sit to make a strong infusion.

Shell the mussels.

Cut the leeks and carrots into fine slivers (so that they're easy to eat with a soupspoon).

Melt the butter in a large saucepan, then add the slivers and cook covered on medium low heat, letting them sweat until tender. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Stir in the saffron infusion, the cream, the Tabasco sauce, and season to taste. Let bubble for some 5 minutes, then reduce heat.

Mix a ladleful with the beaten egg yolks, to make a liaison, then stir back into the pot and let thicken over a low heat for several minutes.

When the soup has thickened, stir in the mussels and let warm in the simmering liquid for a few minutes. Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle each with finely minced tarragon.

Serve hot to 4 as a first course to an elegant meal.

Soup Of The Evening...Beautiful Soup at


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