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Orange & Saffron-Scented Mussel Soup

  • 45 m
  • 45 m
EatingWell Test Kitchen
“Orange juice, saffron and white wine combine in a heady broth for this mussel soup. It can be made in advance and gently reheated just before serving.”


    • 6 plum tomatoes, cored
    • 1½ tablespoons butter
    • 1½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • 3 cloves garlic, minced
    • 4 leeks, white and light green parts only, cleaned and thinly sliced
    • 3 carrots, finely chopped
    • 2 onions, onions, finely chopped
    • 1 bottle (750 ml) dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc (3 cups)
    • 2 bay leaves
    • 2 teaspoons dried thyme, divided
    • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
    • 2 cups water
    • 4 pounds fresh mussels, scrubbed and debearded (see Tip)
    • 1 cup orange juice
    • 3 tablespoons Italian parsley, cut in slivers
    • 1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
    • 1 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled or ¼ teaspoon powdered saffron
    • Salt to taste


  • 1 Bring a large saucepan of water to a simmer over high heat. Cut an "x" in the bottom of each tomato. Plunge the tomatoes into the simmering water. When the skins split, remove the tomatoes with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl of ice water. When cool enough to handle, peel, seed and dice the tomatoes. Set aside.
  • 2 Heat butter and oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add garlic and sauté until light golden, about 30 seconds. Add leeks, carrots and onions; sauté until very soft, about 15 minutes. Add wine, bay leaves, 1½ teaspoons thyme, pepper and water; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and cook for 15 minutes.
  • 3 Stir in mussels, increase heat to medium-high and return to a simmer. Cover the pan and cook for five minutes, shaking the pan several times to distribute the mussels. Transfer all the opened mussels with a slotted spoon to a large bowl. Continue to cook any unopened mussels for two more minutes. Remove the remaining mussels, discarding any that do not open.
  • 4 When the mussels are cool enough to handle, remove them from their shells, working over a bowl to collect their juices. Pull off and discard the dark rubbery rims; set the mussels aside. Strain the accumulated juices and the cooking liquid through a cheesecloth-lined sieve set over a bowl, pressing hard on the solids to extract all the liquid. Return the liquid to the pot and add orange juice, parsley, orange zest, saffron and the remaining ½ teaspoon thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Add the reserved tomatoes and mussels and heat gently, not allowing the soup to boil.
  • To make ahead: Prepare through Step 4 up to 1 day in advance. Cover and refrigerate the broth, tomatoes and mussels in separate containers.
  • Tip: To clean & debeard mussels: Use a stiff brush to scrub mussels under running water. Discard any with broken shells or any whose shells remain open after you tap them lightly. Scrape off any barnacles; pull off the black fibrous “beard”.
  • Note: Literally the dried stigma from Crocus sativus, saffron is the world's most expensive spice. Over 75,000 flowers are required for each pound of saffron. Fortunately, a little goes a long way. It's used sparingly to add golden yellow color and flavor to a wide variety of Middle Eastern, African and European-inspired foods. Find it in the specialty-herb section of large supermarkets, gourmet-food shops and Wrapped in foil and placed in a container with a tight-fitting lid, it will keep in a cool, dry place for several years.
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