BILLI BI

BILLI BI, THE LUXURIOUS FRENCH MUSSEL SOUP, TRACES ITS ORIGINS TO THE MAXIM'S OF PARIS, WHERE THE CHEF NAMED IT AFTER WILLIAM B. (BILLY B.) LEEDS, THE AMERICAN TIN MAGNET AND THE SOUP'S BIGGEST FAN.  THE CHEF PROBABLY ADAPTED IT FROM A MUSSEL SOUP COMMONLY MADE IN BRITTANY.  WHATEVER ITS ORIGINS -- HAUTE CUISINE OR HUMBLE -- BILLI BI IS THE SIMPLEST OF SOUPS TO MAKE.  IT IS ESSENTIALLY MUSSEL BROTH AND LOTS OF HEAVY CREAM.  THE MOST WORK IS REMOVING THE COOKED MUSSELS FROM THEIR SHELLS.  THIS IS PRETTY MUCH CRAIG CLAIBORNE'S VERSION FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES, FIRST PUBLISHED IN 1960 AND REFINED IN OVER THE YEARS.  I DOUBLED THE AMOUNT FEARING THAT THREE CUPS OF LIQUID WOULD NOT SATISFY SIX HUNGRY PEOPLE.  I WAS RIGHT.  BILLI BI IS SO SEDUCTIVE THAT MY GUESTS CAME BACK FOR SECONDS.   

 3 lbs MUSSELS
 4 LARGE SHALLOTS
 SEVERAL SPRIGS OF FRESH THYME
 8 PARSLEY SPRIGS
 CAYENNE PEPPER
 2 cups DRY WHITE WINE
 3 tbsp BUTTER
 1 BAY LEAF
 4 cups HEAVY CREAM
 2 EGG YOLKS
 PARSLEY LEAVES OR CHIVES

1

SCRUB MUSSELS OF ANY GRIT AND PULL OFF BEARDS, JUST BEFORE COOKING.

PEEL AND ROUGHLY CHOP THE SHALLOTS.

TRIM STEMS FROM THE PARSLEY SPRIGS. RESERVE LEAVES.

MELT BUTTER IN A DUTCH OVEN.

ADD SHALLOTS, THYME, PARSLEY STEMS AND BAY LEAF. STIR TOGETHER FOR A MINUTE.

ADD MUSSELS AND WHITE WINE. ADD A PINCH OF CAYENNE, BLACK PEPPER AND SALT.

COVER AND COOK FOR ABOUT 8 MINUTES OR UNTIL ALL THE MUSSELS HAVE OPENED.

WHEN THE MUSSELS ARE COOL ENOUGH TO HANDLE, REMOVE THE MEAT FROM THE SHELLS. DISCARD ANY UNOPENED MUSSELS.
RESERVE THE MUSSELS.

POUR THE COOKING LIQUID THROUGH A STRAINER LINED WITH CHEESECLOTH. DISCARD ALL THE SOLIDS.

RINSE OUT THE POT. RETURN THE LIQUID TO POT. POUR IN THE CREAM.

JUST BEFORE SERVING, BRING THE LIQUID TO A SIMMER.

BEAT THE EGG YOLKS. BEAT IN 1/2 CUP OF THE HOT LIQUID, THEN BEAT BACK INTO THE SOUP. DON'T LET THE SOUP BOIL OR THE EGGS WILL SCRAMBLE.

EITHER ADD THE MUSSELS TO THE SOUP OR DISTRIBUTE THEM IN INDIVIDUAL SOUP BOWLS AND POUR THE BROTH IN OVER THEM. GARNISH WITH CHOPPED PARSLEY LEAVES OR CHIVES.

SERVES 6

Ingredients

 3 lbs MUSSELS
 4 LARGE SHALLOTS
 SEVERAL SPRIGS OF FRESH THYME
 8 PARSLEY SPRIGS
 CAYENNE PEPPER
 2 cups DRY WHITE WINE
 3 tbsp BUTTER
 1 BAY LEAF
 4 cups HEAVY CREAM
 2 EGG YOLKS
 PARSLEY LEAVES OR CHIVES

Directions

1

SCRUB MUSSELS OF ANY GRIT AND PULL OFF BEARDS, JUST BEFORE COOKING.

PEEL AND ROUGHLY CHOP THE SHALLOTS.

TRIM STEMS FROM THE PARSLEY SPRIGS. RESERVE LEAVES.

MELT BUTTER IN A DUTCH OVEN.

ADD SHALLOTS, THYME, PARSLEY STEMS AND BAY LEAF. STIR TOGETHER FOR A MINUTE.

ADD MUSSELS AND WHITE WINE. ADD A PINCH OF CAYENNE, BLACK PEPPER AND SALT.

COVER AND COOK FOR ABOUT 8 MINUTES OR UNTIL ALL THE MUSSELS HAVE OPENED.

WHEN THE MUSSELS ARE COOL ENOUGH TO HANDLE, REMOVE THE MEAT FROM THE SHELLS. DISCARD ANY UNOPENED MUSSELS.
RESERVE THE MUSSELS.

POUR THE COOKING LIQUID THROUGH A STRAINER LINED WITH CHEESECLOTH. DISCARD ALL THE SOLIDS.

RINSE OUT THE POT. RETURN THE LIQUID TO POT. POUR IN THE CREAM.

JUST BEFORE SERVING, BRING THE LIQUID TO A SIMMER.

BEAT THE EGG YOLKS. BEAT IN 1/2 CUP OF THE HOT LIQUID, THEN BEAT BACK INTO THE SOUP. DON'T LET THE SOUP BOIL OR THE EGGS WILL SCRAMBLE.

EITHER ADD THE MUSSELS TO THE SOUP OR DISTRIBUTE THEM IN INDIVIDUAL SOUP BOWLS AND POUR THE BROTH IN OVER THEM. GARNISH WITH CHOPPED PARSLEY LEAVES OR CHIVES.

SERVES 6

BILLI BI
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