Recipe of the month: Squash, Mussels and Saffron Soup [fr]
For a good way to kick off autumn, our Chef Sébastien Baud demonstrates the recipe for Squash, Mussels and Saffron Soup!
This month, we are ending our tour of Normandy, with a final, easy-to-make recipe between land and sea. It is a wonderful example of the region’s food heritage.
But first, to conclude this series of recipes from Normandy, I absolutely need to pay tribute to the cheeses of Normandy. They are the reason why Normandy is sometimes called “the region with the four cheeses”.
Those four are, going east to west, Neufchâtel, Pont-L’Evêque, Livarot and Camembert. It is worth noting that Normandy is France’s leading cow milk cheese producer, and that it accounts for 25% of the country’ artisanal production.
Below is a brief description of the four cheeses:
> Camembert from Normandy – raw milk, soft, mould rind
> Livarot – raw and/or pasteurized milk, soft, washed rind
> Pont-L’Evêque – raw and/or pasteurized milk, soft, washed rind
> Neufchâtel – raw and/or pasteurized milk, soft, mould rind
The first local examples of cheese-making date back to 911 AD. Several written references to it were found. First associated with farming and bovine breeding, cheese-making rapidly evolved into a lucrative activity and, by the same token, a source of income for the State.
Originally located in “Pays de Bray” (“Basse-Normandie” and “Pays d’Auge” then focused on polyculture and meat farming), cheese-making developed mostly between the 12th and the 13th century, because of the competition from English cheeses.
At the time, cheeses were all sold under the name of “angelots” (literally, “little angels”). Even if some markets like Livarot or Pont-L’Evêque acquired some notoriety, the cheese remained mostly for local consumption until the 17th century.
After that date, the cheese industry’s commercial potential strongly developed, notably when farmers from Pays d’Auge changed their production. In the 20th century, this small region became the largest producer of soft cheeses!
RECIPE FOR 4 SERVINGS:
3.3lbs cleaned and scraped mussels
1.1lbs squash, skin and seeds removed
2 grey shallots
1 garlic clove
1 sprig of thyme
1 sprig of parsley
1tbsp ground coriander
8 saffron pistils
1 oz. butter
40 cl milk
20 cl cream
10 cl dry white wine
Dice the squash in small cubes.
Melt two tablespoons of butter in a casserole, add the squash and cook for two minutes over low heat, then add a thinly sliced shallot. Combine well and cook for one more minute.
Add the chopped garlic clove, 30 cl of milk, and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes.
Put the mussels in a casserole; add the second chopped shallot, the parsley, the thyme and the white wine. Cover and cook over high heat. As soon as the first mussels begin to open, remove from the stove and set the still covered casserole aside, until all the mussels have opened.
Remove the mussel shells, and delicately set the mussels aside.
After cooking for 20 minutes, the squash is done. Remove from the stove and transfer to a mixer. Blend.
Add the cream little by little, mixing in 5 cl of milk, and checking the consistency as you go. The final result should be smooth and a little thick.
Pour the preparation in a casserole dish, and bring to a boil. Add the remaining milk if needed to adjust the consistency, which should remain smooth and creamy.
Add some nutmeg, and salt/pepper to taste.
Pour a small ladle of squash soup over the mussels, combine with a wooden spatula, and reheat over a low flame. Add the saffron pistils and the ground coriander.
Pour the squash soup in soup plates, positioning the mussels and saffron pistils in the center. Serve promptly.
Let me conclude with a quote from Anatole France, drawn from The Revolt of the Angels (1914).
Wishing you “Bon Appétit”!
“French cuisine is the best in the world. This glory will shine above all the others, when humanity has become a little wiser, and prizes the power of cooking more than that of the sword.