I’ll admit that I’ve been in a saffron mood these days. Many of the main dishes I’ve been making have included it. Because of my Persian background, saffron is such an integral and important part of my culture and upbringing. The simple aroma of saffron instantly brings back childhood memories of my grandmother making food in our
tiny, but expensive New York apartment. I understand that saffron may be hard to come by and costly. But if you ever come across an opportunity to use it in your cooking, by all means go for it!
A Few Fun Facts About Saffron
1. Saffron is made from the stigmas of the crocus flower
2. It can take 4,500 crocus flowers to produce one ounce of saffron.
3. Ounce for ounce, saffron is the most expensive spice in the world. It can cost up to $315.oo per ounce, or $5,040 per pound.
4. Saffron has a huge history in the ancient world. From Buddha, to the Roman Empire, to the Middle Ages, many civilizations have their own uses and ties to the spice. Buddhists were inspired by the color of saffron when dying their robes. Romans would often bathe in saffron.
5. Saffron also has a history of being used as a dye for clothing. Cleopatra, Marie Antoinette, and Queen Elizabeth are some of the most noteworthy figures to use saffron to dye their clothing.
Using Saffron in Cooking
Because saffron is such a delicate spice, you need to handle it with extreme care. NEVER throw pure saffron threads into a dish. Ideally you should grind them in a small coffee grinder that you devote solely for saffron. Store this powder in a small jar in a cool, dry place.
When adding saffron to a braise or stew, let it steep in 2-3 tablespoons of water before adding to the pot. This will keep you from burning the saffron and leaving a bitter after taste in your dish.
Here’s today recipe. This meal is great to make on a weekend when you don’t have much to do. Note the subtle, but flavorful use of saffron.
Saffron Infused Braised Chicken with Root Vegetables
1 tbsp oil
1 small onion, diced
1 pound boneless skinless chicken, cut into 3 inch pieces
1/2 pound baby carrots, cut length wise
1 can low-sodium green beans, drained and rinsed
3 medium sized potatoes, chopped into medium sized pieces (2 inches)
3/4 of a small can of tomato paste
1/2 cup of lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp turmeric
smidgen (pinch) of saffron steeped in 2-3 Tbsp water
Salt and pepper to taste
Water as needed to coat
1. Saute onion in oil with salt and pepper until onion softens (about 10 minutes). Add chicken, and gently cook for 5-10 minutes on medium heat. When the chicken starts to stick to the pot, add turmeric and enough water to almost coat the chicken. Leave a space of about 1/2 inch between the water line and the top of chicken breast (this is what a true braise is). Add saffron.
2. Let chicken and broth come to a boil, then let simmer for 20 minutes. Turn the pieces of chicken over periodically so they cook evenly and absorb an even amount of color. Add lemon juice and tomato paste.
3. Add carrots and more water as needed to maintain the braise. Cook until carrots are soft, about one hour.
4. Add green beans, let cook for 15 minutes. Add potatoes and cook until potatoes are soften (about 30 minutes). Serve with brown or basmati rice.
This is a great hearty stew that is perfect for a chilly day. I recommend tasting it throughout the cooking process to make sure it has enough lemon, salt, tomato paste, etc. Hope everyone enjoys this recipe! Please read, eat, and enjoy!