BILLI-BI, THE BEST SOUP IN THE WORLD

Talk about rich.  Billy-Bi, the famed Parisian soup made with mussels, is considered by many (including legendary food writer Craig Claiborne) to be the world’s greatest soup.

And why not – not only are its ingredients rich and elegant so was its creation at Maxim’s in Paris.

The dish was created by Louis Barthe, the esteemed chef at Maxim’s in the early 1900s for his spectacularly wealthy and devoted customer, the American tin-plating magnate William B. (Billy B.) Leeds Sr. Leeds spent a lot of time in Paris in the first decade of the century and died there in 1908. 

This turn of the century pattern of Americans visiting Europe for art and culture made have been what prompted Oscar Wilde to write that, ““When good Americans die, they go to Paris"  in his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray.

But whether one is in Paris or stateside, Billy-Bi, is a true culinary treasure not to be missed. Enjoy!

Billi-Bi Soup

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 pounds Taylor Mediterranean Mussels
  • 2 shallots, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 small white onions, peeled and quartered
  • 2 sprigs parsley, plus chopped parsley for garnish
  •  Kosher salt
  •  Pepper, to taste
  •  Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup dry white wine, like pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten

DIRECTIONS

  1. Place clean Taylor mussels in large saucepan or Dutch oven and add shallots, onions, parsley, salt, pepper, cayenne, wine, butter, bay leaf and thyme.
  2. Cover and bring to a boil over medium heat.
  3. Reduce heat and simmer 8 to 10 minutes, or until mussels have opened.
  4. Discard any that have not opened.
  5. Strain liquid through a colander lined with cheesecloth and reserve; this is the base for the soup.
  6. When cool enough to handle, remove mussels from shells and reserve.
  7. Discard shells and aromatics.
  8. Bring reserved liquid to a low boil in a small saucepan.
  9. Add cream and return mixture almost to a boil, then remove from heat.
  10. Let cool slightly then add egg yolk and stir to combine.
  11. Return saucepan to heat and let thicken slightly. (Do not boil.)
  12. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  13. To serve, arrange mussels in center of large soup dishes and spoon liquid over them.
  14. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.