ATLANTIC COD WITH MUSSELS

I'VE BEEN TOUGHING OUT THE PANDEMIC IN A HOUSE ON ONE OF THE RANGELY LAKES IN NORTHWESTERN MAINE.  A FISH TRUCK COMES TWICE WEEK AND PARKS IN TOWN.  WE LINE UP, MASKED UP, SIX FEET APART AND WAIT TO BUY OUR FRESH COD, SCALLOPS, LOBSTERS, TUNA, AND SWORDFISH.  THE COD IS PARTICULARLY DELICIOUS AND I'VE BEEN MAKING UP RECIPES TO MAXIMIZE ITS POTENTIAL.  I BROUGHT ALONG A HEALTHY AMOUNT OF SAFFRON.  MAINE MUSSELS ARE PLUMP AND DELICIOUS, SO I UTILIZED BOTH INGREDIENTS IN THIS DISH.  THE MUSSELS ARE PREPARED IN ADVANCE AND THEIR BROTH BECOMES THE BASIS FOR THE SAUCE.  THE RESULT IS BOTH SIMPLE AND LUXURIOUS. 

A NOTE ON SAFFRON:  SAFFRON, THE DRIED STIGMA OF CROCUS SATIVUS, IS BOTH UNIQUE AND EXPENSIVE.  LIKE TRUFFLES, ITS TASTE IS HARD TO DESCRIBE, BUT THERE IS NO COMPARABLE SPICE TO BRIGHTEN A DISH BOTH IN TASTE AND APPEARANCE -- A BRIGHT ORANGEY YELLOW.  YES, SAFFRON IS EXPENSIVE, BUT IF PROPERLY PRESERVED IT LASTS A LONG TIME AND A LITTLE BIT GOES A LONG WAY.  IF YOU BUY IT IN SMALL QUANTITIES IT IS RIDICULOUSLY OVERPRICED.  BUT A 20 GRAM TIN OF AFGHAN SAFFRON COSTS $75 ONLINE AND I DEFY YOU TO GO THROUGH A TIN OF IT IN A YEAR.  IT'S A KEY COMPONENT TO THIS RECIPE BUT I USE IT OFTEN TO MAKE RICE PILAF AND RISOTTO.  IT'S BRIGHTENS PASTA DISHES AND PINCH ADDED TO A LAMB STEW WILL LEND IT A MYSTERIOUS ACCENT.  A PINCH WILL DO.  GRIND IT WITH COURSE SALT IN A MORTAR AND PESTLE AND DISSOLVE IN WHITE WINE OR CHICKEN STOCK.  IT SHOULD BE A STAPLE IN YOUR PANTRY. 

 3 lbs FRESH MUSSELS
 2 lbs ATLANTIC COD
 2 SHALLOTS
 3 GARLIC CLOVES
 LARGE SPRIG OF FRESH THYME
 2 cups WHITE WINE
 PINCH OF SAFFRON
 CRÉME FRAÎCHE

1

TRIM, PEEL AND ROUGHLY CHOP SHALLOTS AND GARLIC.

POUR A COUPLE OF TBSPS OF OLIVE OIL IN A POT OR LARGE SAUCEPAN. ADD CHOPPED SHALLOTS AND GARLIC. HEAT TILL YOU CAN SMELL THE GARLIC.

ADD THYME, MUSSELS AND TWO CUPS OF WHITE WINE. COVER AND COOK ON MEDIUM HEAT UNTIL ALL THE MUSSELS HAVE OPENED. DISCARD ANY THAT HAVEN'T.

WHEN THE MUSSELS HAVE COOLED REMOVE FROM THEIR SHELLS. POUR THE BROTH INTO A SEPARATE BOWL THROUGH A STRAINER LINED WITH CHEESECLOTH.

GRIND A HEALTHY PINCH OF SAFFRON IN A MORTAR AND PESTLE WITH A PINCH OF COARSE SALT TILL IT'S POWDERY.

MELT 3 TBSPS OF BUTTER AND A SPLASH OF OLIVE OIL IN A PAN OR AU GRATIN DISH.

DRY THE FISH THOROUGHLY WITH PAPER TOWELS, SALT AND PEPPER.

WHEN THE BUTTER HAS MELTED AND IS VERY HOT, LAY IN THE COD FILLET. COOK ON ONE SIDE FOR 3-4 MINUTES, THEN REMOVE TO A PLATE.

REDUCE HEAT. POUR IN ABOUT A CUP OF MUSSEL BROTH. POUR A LITTLE MORE BROTH INTO THE MORTAR TO DISSOLVE THE SAFFRON. ADD TO THE PAN.

REDUCE THE LIQUID BY HALF, USING A WOODEN SPOON TO SCRAPE UP ANY BROWN BITS STICKING TO THE PAN.

ADD A CUP OF CRÉME FRAÎCHE. STIR AND REDUCE BY A THIRD.

RETURN THE COD TO THE PAN, UNCOOKED SIDE DOWN. COOK A COUPLE OF MINUTES TILL DONE.

STIR IN THE MUSSELS TO WARM THEM, BASTING THE FISH WITH THE SAUCE.

IF YOU LIKE GARNISH THE DISH WITH A SCATTERING OF FRESH PARSLEY OR CHIVES.

SERVES 4-6

Ingredients

 3 lbs FRESH MUSSELS
 2 lbs ATLANTIC COD
 2 SHALLOTS
 3 GARLIC CLOVES
 LARGE SPRIG OF FRESH THYME
 2 cups WHITE WINE
 PINCH OF SAFFRON
 CRÉME FRAÎCHE

Directions

1

TRIM, PEEL AND ROUGHLY CHOP SHALLOTS AND GARLIC.

POUR A COUPLE OF TBSPS OF OLIVE OIL IN A POT OR LARGE SAUCEPAN. ADD CHOPPED SHALLOTS AND GARLIC. HEAT TILL YOU CAN SMELL THE GARLIC.

ADD THYME, MUSSELS AND TWO CUPS OF WHITE WINE. COVER AND COOK ON MEDIUM HEAT UNTIL ALL THE MUSSELS HAVE OPENED. DISCARD ANY THAT HAVEN'T.

WHEN THE MUSSELS HAVE COOLED REMOVE FROM THEIR SHELLS. POUR THE BROTH INTO A SEPARATE BOWL THROUGH A STRAINER LINED WITH CHEESECLOTH.

GRIND A HEALTHY PINCH OF SAFFRON IN A MORTAR AND PESTLE WITH A PINCH OF COARSE SALT TILL IT'S POWDERY.

MELT 3 TBSPS OF BUTTER AND A SPLASH OF OLIVE OIL IN A PAN OR AU GRATIN DISH.

DRY THE FISH THOROUGHLY WITH PAPER TOWELS, SALT AND PEPPER.

WHEN THE BUTTER HAS MELTED AND IS VERY HOT, LAY IN THE COD FILLET. COOK ON ONE SIDE FOR 3-4 MINUTES, THEN REMOVE TO A PLATE.

REDUCE HEAT. POUR IN ABOUT A CUP OF MUSSEL BROTH. POUR A LITTLE MORE BROTH INTO THE MORTAR TO DISSOLVE THE SAFFRON. ADD TO THE PAN.

REDUCE THE LIQUID BY HALF, USING A WOODEN SPOON TO SCRAPE UP ANY BROWN BITS STICKING TO THE PAN.

ADD A CUP OF CRÉME FRAÎCHE. STIR AND REDUCE BY A THIRD.

RETURN THE COD TO THE PAN, UNCOOKED SIDE DOWN. COOK A COUPLE OF MINUTES TILL DONE.

STIR IN THE MUSSELS TO WARM THEM, BASTING THE FISH WITH THE SAUCE.

IF YOU LIKE GARNISH THE DISH WITH A SCATTERING OF FRESH PARSLEY OR CHIVES.

SERVES 4-6

ATLANTIC COD WITH MUSSELS
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