If you like mussels, this is one of the most delicious soups to prepare for family and friends. Some years ago, my friend Mark Williamson, had a beautiful restaurant, “La Moulin de la Village,” in a pedestrian alleyway near the Place de la Madeleine in Paris. His chef served this soup to start my dinner on a chilly March evening. Mark paired it with an incredible Don Zoilo Fino Sherry. These days, you can find Mark at Macéo at 15 rue des Petits Champs. I recommend EVERYthing on their menu! —ChefJune
Heat oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add carrots, leeks, celery, bell pepper, bay leaf and saffron to the skillet and sauté for 5 minutes. Add wine, fish stock and salt to the skillet and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.
Purée mixture in batches in a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Then force it through a tamis or fine sieve. You may wish to process the vegetable mixture a second time and again work the resulting liquid through the tamis. [Soup can be prepared up to this point 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Return to the simmer before continuing.]
Stir aïoli into the soup. Add mussels to the soup and simmer until just heated through, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove bay leaf from soup.
Serve the soup in large shallow soup plates with crôutes. (These are slices of toasted baguette.)
Teacher’s Tip: Scrub and debeard mussels just before steaming. If done too far in advance, the mussels may die. Discard any mussels which do not close after tapping.
Wine Tip: Serve an excellent Fino Sherry with this soup. It makes a fabulous first course as well as a luscious luncheon or Sunday night supper entrée.