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First and South’s Saffron Mussels. (Photo credit: Doug Young)

Most coastal town restaurants on the Northeastern seaboard will likely offer Prince Edward Island mussels on their menus. This sweet and tender mollusk doesn’t require much preparation, just steamed open in a simple white wine and butter sauce and served with crusty French bread.

Greenport’s First and South restaurant knows this best, offering mussels since it opened in 2012. The difference? They add steeped saffron and shallots into the butter and wine sauce. While this is a classic combination, it’s nonetheless a delicious one.

“We’re not doing anything that no one else has done before; we’re just doing it our way,” says First and South owner Sarah Phillips Loth.

Steeping the sliced shallots in wine and saffron will enhance the flavorful broth for the mussels. (Photo credit: Doug Young)

Saffron, made from the female parts of the Crocus Sativus flower, look like thin, bright yellow threads that grow in the center of each flower. Finding it locally may prove tricky, but a road trip to House of Spice (1228 Middle Country Road, Seldon) will prove fruitful, as will a quick search and click online. While it’s a bit pricey for a tiny container, you only need a tiny pinch to give a sauce its trademark golden glow and distinct flavor.

Mussels, on the other hand, are easy to find (and easy on the pocket) in these parts; even better, Southold Fish Market sells them cleaned and de-bearded, which will cut down on the prep time.

Now, we know most of us — even avid home cooks — would prefer to head to First and South for their Monday Mussels special, offering two versions of the dish prepared with artisanal beer broth and their First fries, for $15 a pop to kick off the week.

And for good reason! To many, First and South is more than just a restaurant. It’s a community house and Greenport fixture that welcomes locals and visitors alike with consistent fare and friendly service. The saffron-shallot mussel dish, however, is on permanent rotation and a popular staple at First and South, which takes its much-deserved winter break starting Monday, February 26, and reopening Friday, March 15. So, you’ll be happy to have this recipe in your stockpile while you wait for them to re-open their doors.

“Sharing is caring,” says Phillips Loth of this customer favorite, “and if our guests want to create this recipe at home for family and friends while we’re on break, awesome, and then come back and try ours? Even better.”

Since dunking bread into this flavor-loaded saffron broth is expected, go for a crusty French baguette. First and South pairs this dish with the restaurant’s famous fries, so feel free to recreate that vibe with a quick air-fryer version (do you not have one yet?).

As for the pairing wine? Do as the locals do.

“We recommend Southold’s One Woman vineyards Grüner Veltliner,” says First and South working partner Dan Domingo. “It’s made from a grape from Austria and has bright notes of pink grapefruit, apricot and a classic white pepper finish – a perfect wine to sip with saffron mussels.”

Photo credit: Doug Young

First and South Saffron Mussels

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 8 minutes
Serves 4


  • 3 lbs mussels, scrubbed and debearded
  • 2 medium shallots (1/2 cup), sliced thin, reserve a tablespoon raw for garnish
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp finely smashed/minced lemongrass, from the tender bottom third of the stalk
  • 1 tsp or large pinch of crushed saffron threads
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup clam juice
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • course salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp scallions for garnish, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 tbsp. chives, minced


  • Steep a teaspoon (or a good pinch) of saffron and the sliced shallots in the ¾ cup of white wine for 10 minutes. This will help enhance the color and flavor of the saffron.
  • Place a large stock pan or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the butter and when it’s foamy and melted, add the shallots, garlic and lemongrass and cook until softened about 3 minutes.
  • Add the mussels, saffron steeped wine and clam juice and cook for 2 minutes.
  • Stir in the cream, bring to a boil and cover the pan (leave lid ajar slightly)
  • Cook until the mussels have opened, about 5 minutes. Discard any mussels that do not open.
  • Taste broth and season with salt and pepper as needed.
  • Garnish with minced parsley and thinly sliced scallions before ladling into shallow bowls with broth. Sprinkle with minced chives and reserved raw scallion on top.
  • Serve with crusty, toasted baguette (or air-fryer french fries!)
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