Saffron mussels

Steamed mussels with saffron

It’s getting warmer, and while I love mussels anytime of the year, they seem like an especially spring dish to me for some reason. I don’t make mussels myself too often, just because you need to cook them and eat them all in one day, you can’t save some for leftovers. But, as mussels are actually a pretty cheap thing to cook for seafood, at about $5 for 1 pound, it’s a great ingredient for gourmet on a budget.

This recipe, from Epicurious, calls for saffron, which is the most expensive spice on the planet. But, as a little goes a long way, the price doesn’t end up being that much for this dish, making it fit within a reasonable budget.

Budget: $16 for 4 servings; or $4 a serving.

Recipe details after the jump.

A regular feature in which I cook cheap, gourmet dishes.


  • .5 tsp butter (pantry)
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped (pantry)
  • 1-2 cups dry white wine ($6.50 for Yellowtail  Pinot Grigio – about $1.75 to $3 for serving)
  • 1 tbs half and half/cream/milk (pantry)

    Mussels, cleaned and ready to be cooked

    Mussels, cleaned and ready to be cooked

  • .5 tsp saffron threads ($8.40 for about .03 oz, about $3 for serving)
  • 1-2 shallots, chopped ($4.99 for a pound, about $.70 for a serving)
  • .5 cup canned tomatoes, whole or chopped – but if you buy whole you gotta chop them up ($2 for 28 oz can, maybe $.50 for serving)
  • 1 tbs lemon juice (pantry)
  • 2 lbs mussels (about $8.50)
  • 1 tbs chives, chopped ($2 for a large bunch, about $.50 for serving)

Total: $16.20, which is a pretty good price considering we’re using saffron and mussels and wine.


  • Bloom saffron in small bowl with water, let it sit for a few minutes until water takes on the saffron’s color.
  • Meanwhile, make sure all of your mussels are clean. Rinse mussels under cold water, scrub with a brush or rough sponge to get off any dirt/sand. If there are “beards” – pull/cut them off.  If any are open, gently press them closed. If they don’t close on their own, toss them because they’re dead. Similarly, if any are broken, toss them.
  • Melt butter in large pot, add chopped garlic and shallots to the pot. Cook until translucent, a few minutes.
  • Add white wine, half and half, and saffron, heat until the liquid comes to a simmer.
    • Note, I say 1-2 cups of white wine because it depends on how much broth you want leftover, I tend to want more to dip some crusty bread in, but it doesn’t make a huge difference how much there is for cooking the mussels, as they steam with a lid on top of the pot.
  • Add tomatoes, let simmer for a few more minutes.
  • Throw in the mussels, cover the pot, and let steam for 5-7 minutes, until all mussels are open. If a mussel doesn’t open, toss it, because it’s dead (though they all are now, but this one wasn’t alive in the first place).
  • Add lemon juice, chopped chives at the last minute.
  • Spoon mussels in 1 big bowl, or 4 individual if you feel like it, and serve with a good crusty bread to sop up the broth in (probably my favorite part).