One of the World’s Most Luxurious Dishes
Billi Bi is considered one of the world’s classic dishes and its complex flavors and rich, luxurious texture back that reputation up. Unlike its famous siblings in the hall-of-fame food world, this soup is fast, easy and inexpensive, a real stunner at the dinner table too. Mussels are one of my 10 desert island foods, but even a first-timer will adore this beautiful soup. Sometimes I will skip the shelling process and make this a more rustic center of the table, family-style course as well. It’s very versatile.
- 3 parsley sprigs
- 2 thyme sprigs
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 5 shallots, finely chopped (1 cup)
- 1 leek, white and pale green part only, finely chopped
- 1 celery rib, finely chopped
- 1 carrot, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- Freshly ground pepper
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
- 3 pounds mussels (preferably Prince Edward Island or Penn Cove), scrubbed and debearded
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 2 large egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons chopped chives
- Crusty bread, for serving
Using kitchen string, tie the parsley and thyme sprigs with the bay leaf to make a bouquet garni. Melt the butter in a large enameled cast-iron casserole. Add the bouquet garni, shallots, leek, celery, carrot, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper and the cayenne. Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the wine and boil until reduced by half, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the mussels, cover and cook, shaking the casserole occasionally, until the mussels are wide open, 4 to 6 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the mussels and vegetables to a large bowl; discard the bouquet garni. Remove the mussels from their shells and add them to the vegetables. Strain the mussel broth through several layers of cheesecloth. Rinse out the casserole.
Return the broth to the casserole. Stir in the cream and bring to a simmer over moderate heat. In a medium bowl, gradually whisk 1/4 cup of the creamy broth into the egg yolks. Whisk the yolk mixture into the simmering soup and immediately remove the pot from the heat. Stir in the mussel and vegetable mixture and the chives and season with salt and pepper. Serve the soup with crusty bread.
MAKE AHEAD The soup can be refrigerated for 2 days; reheat gently.
Originally published in Andrew Zimmern’s Kitchen Adventures on foodandwine.com.
Photograph by Madeleine Hill.