AP Studios / Recipe: Mussels in Saffron Broth


When I first started shooting food photography in Seattle 25 years ago, every client I had was in the seafood industry. They didn’t know I had an intense allergy to shellfish, and that wasn’t going to stop me from living my dream. During shoots I learned that I couldn’t stop myself from fussing with the food on set. I would have Clorox wipes nearby, to keep my hands from breaking out in hives. Probably not the best thing for me, but hey–it worked!

Despite my allergy, it’s always a joy to shoot seafood. The shapes, colors, and reflective qualities of many types of fish create a special dimension to a photograph that I absolutely love. So when the local Washington company, Vital Choice found me over 9 years ago, it was a perfect fit from the beginning.

Vital Choice is a company that delivers seafood harvested from healthy, well-managed wild fisheries and farms. They have developed a variety of recipes over the years, and this is the studio’s favorite: mussels in saffron broth. The mollusks are steamed in white wine with vegetables and fresh herbs, yielding a richly flavorful broth that is added to a blend of saffron, finely diced orange bell pepper, and crème fraîche (or light sour cream). You won’t stop dipping your crusty bread in this broth, even after the mussels are long gone.


Mussels in Saffron Broth

Serves 4

4 1/2 pounds Pacific Blue Mussels (about 75 mussels)
2 tablespoons butter
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 carrot, thinly sliced
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 cup dry white wine
1 organic bay leaf
1 small orange bell pepper, cored, seeded, and finely chopped
Pinch saffron threads
Sea salt and organic black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup crème fraîche (or light sour cream)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley


1. Clean the frozen mussels under a cold tap; set aside. You could thaw the mussels—place them in cold water for 20 minutes in cold water before proceeding—but you needn’t.

2. In a stock pot, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat. Add half the onion with the celery, carrot, and thyme. Cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes. Pour in 1/2 cup of the wine, with the bay leaf and mussels. Cover and cook over medium-high heat for 3 minutes or until all the mussels are opened*. Set aside off the heat.

3. Meanwhile, in a flameproof casserole large enough to hold all the mussels, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add the remaining onion and bell pepper. Cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes or until softened. Add the remaining 1/2 cup wine, saffron, salt, and black pepper. Let the mixture bubble steadily for a few minutes. Add the crème fraîche and parsley.

4. Using a large slotted spoon, remove the mussels from the stock pot. Strain the broth into the saffron mixture. Bring to a boil. Add the mussels to the pan. Spoon the liquid over them. Divide the mussels and broth among shallow bowls.

About the photographer: EJ Armstrong is the chief art and cookie addict at the Black Building. She has thirty years of experience in the visual world, making her the lead nagger, design junky and advice columnist. You can find her on Instagram @avisualist or see more of her photography here.

Posted By: EJ
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