Traditional French bisques, especially seafood ones, can be a complicated affair. But Ina Garten has created a wonderful rich French style bisque that is brimming with flavour but you won’t need to spend the whole day in the kitchen to make it. Using mussels and retaining the briny juices released as they cook gives the bisque wonderful flavour and the addition of saffron and a touch of cream give it depth and body. It’s important to take the time to really let the vegetables sweat down, rushing this step will detract from the overall flavour of the bisque. The ingredients as listed below will feed 4 people as a starter but I cooked this amount for the 2 of us as a main meal. I sometimes also add a handful of arborio rice to the stock, not traditional I know but it’s delicious and does stretch the meal out. A couple of slices of lightly toasted baguette rubbed with some olive oil and a clove of garlic is all you need to accompany it.
Ingredients – Serves 4 as a starter or 2 as a main meal Adapted from Ina Garten
3½ cups dry white wine, divided
1kg fresh mussels, cleaned and debearded
40g unsalted butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large leek, white and light green parts, cleaned and chopped
1 carrot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon saffron threads
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 whole canned plum tomatoes, chopped
1 cup whole milk
½ cup cream
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
Bring 1 cup water and ½ cup of the wine to a boil in a large, shallow pot. Add the mussels, cover the pot, and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, until the mussels open. When the mussels are cool enough to handle, separate the mussels from the shells and set aside, discarding the shells and any mussels that didn’t open. Strain the cooking liquid through a fine sieve, lined with cheesecloth or kitchen paper, into a bowl and reserve. Meanwhile, melt the butter in another large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the onions, leek, carrots, garlic, saffron, 1 teaspoons salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper and saute, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 20 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and cook for another minute. Add 1 cup of the reserved cooking liquid (discard the rest) and the rest of the wine, bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Add the reserved mussels, the milk, and the cream. Heat until just heated through but not boiling. Stir in the parsley, taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if necessary. Serve hot.