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What can I do with a jar of saffron?

It's worth its weight in gold. I've read its fabled history and people have surely died for it. It figures in Greek myth and in medieval times wars were fought over it. (e.g. the "Saffron War") But someone gave me a very small jar of saffron threads and I don't know what to do with it! What preparation, dish or recipe best brings out its legendary flavour? (It seems a waste to throw it in some rice.) I've done a search on this board and found references to its subtle, floral note. I want to taste that!

It's the stuff of legend; see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_...

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  1. It goes really well in kheer (rice or vermicelli pudding.) I just use Madhur Jaffrey's recipe and add some saffron as well as a few white raisins. You definitely know it's there.

    FWIW- I don't think it's a waste to use it in rice (as a side dish) at all. Actually, the one time I 'overdid it' with saffron was in saffron rice (the upside being that at least it was a good learning experience)- it's amazing the fine line between being subtle to overpowering :)

    1. Two of my recent favorites are Hopkinson's saffron mashed potatoes, and saffron mussel soup. Let me know if you'd like recipes. Paella of course is a classic option, and lots of posts about it on the COTM threads this month.

      5 Replies
      1. re: MMRuth

        I'd love to see the saffron mussel soup recipe. thanks!

        1. re: michele cindy

          I'll try to paraphrase tonight. Meanwhile, here's my report and photos:


          1. re: MMRuth

            Saffron Soup with Mussels, paraphrased from Hopkinson's Roast Chicken and Other Stories:

            1/2 cup butter
            2 large onions, finely chopped
            2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
            2 T Pernod
            1/2 bottle dry white wine (750 ml bottle)
            1 bay leaf
            1 thyme sprig
            1 cup light chicken stock
            2 1/4 pounds cleaned mussels
            2 waxy all purpose potatoes, diced
            1 tsp saffron threads
            salt & pepper
            1/2 cup heavy cream
            2 tarragon sprigs, leaves only, finely chopped
            lemon juice to taste
            croutons, to serve

            Melt butter and add onions and garlic, cooking until "pale golden". Add Pernod, "allow to froth", add white wine and herbs. After it comes to a boil, simmer for 15 minutes, gently, without a lid. Add stock and heat again.

            In a large pot, put the mussels and strain the soup over them, reserving the solids. Bring to a boil until mussels are "just" open. Drain, keep the liquid. Strain liquid through cheesecloth or fine sieve into the pot you used to make the soup. (I was about to skip this step, but am glad I did not as there was some sand/grit etc.) Add the solids to the broth, remove bay leaf and thyme, add potatoes, saffron, salt and pepper, bring to the boil. Simmer until the potatoes are tender, then keep warm.

            Shell mussels, add to soup, heat with cream and tarragon, add lemon juice to taste. Adjust seasoning if needed, serve with croutons.

        2. re: MMRuth

          Here's a link to the mashed potato recipe:


          Though, in the book, he calls for letting them sit for 30 minutes to really let the saffron flavor develop - maybe that was something he added when he wrote his book.

        3. Just read the wiki link Brian S provided. Based on the article, I say you should take a bath in it. :)

          1. Classic seafood risotto. Pound cake. Scrambled eggs. But do go easy, less is more.

            1 Reply
            1. re: LJS

              Oh, and of course, osso bucco with risotto milanese (I think ...) - a bit of a heavy dish for the summer, though.

            2. Sunday Suppers at Lucques has a saffron chicken recipe that is yummy! I didn't find a link for it, but this is another one I have bookmarked.


              2 Replies
              1. re: ElissaInPlaya

                That sounds wonderful! (They all do!!) Is the saffron chicken recipe you can't find the recipe halfway down this page?


                1. re: Brian S

                  Yes - this looks about the same. Although it does say "adapted" , it looks exactly the same to me. Make sure you take the time to marinate the chicken.

              2. If you bake, saffron flavors and colors many classic sweet breads. Saffron cake, St. Lucia buns, and certain hot cross buns come to mind.

                1. I've done a winter squash gratin with coconut milk that had saffron steeped in it. I know there were toasted pistachios or almonds involved and some sort of sweetener. It was lovely.

                  1. Shrimp, crab, or lobster. White fishes.

                    Just made a saffron basmati rice, with saffron, smoked paprika, EVOO, butter, and finely chopped onion. As others have said, less is the key. Even my daughter likes it. I kept wondering what else I could add; cashews, raisins; but decided against.Until tonight, when I toasted a few pine nuts. Easy, easy.

                    A little saffron in a tomato dish, such as a fresh, chunky, tomato soup.

                    A little in sushi rice lends beautiful color and flavor, and goes well with white fish.

                    1. Saffron ice cream, or better yet, saffron with pistachios.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: Karen_Schaffer

                        That sounds great. For my own part, I make a rosewater-saffron frosting for cake.

                        1. re: JungMann

                          JungMann, can you post the recipe? I'd love to make that frosting-- I'm constantly looking for ways to sneak rose water into my life!

                          1. re: Vetter

                            It's from Epicurious' recipe for Persian Love Cake.

                            2 1/2 cups chilled heavy whipping cream, divided
                            Couple pinches of saffron threads
                            2/3 cup powdered sugar
                            2 tsp. rose water

                            Combine 1/2 cup cream and saffron in small saucepan. Bring to simmer. Remove from heat; let steep 20 minutes. Chill until cold.

                            Beat remaining 2 cups cream, powdered sugar, and rose water in large bowl until soft peaks form; strain in saffron cream. Beat until peaks form.

                        2. re: Karen_Schaffer

                          Yes. I've done this just by adding saffron with the vanilla bean to a basic vanilla custard ice cream.

                        3. For a lovely salad try this:

                          Infuse into stock/water for making cous-cous. Fork over whilst still hot, and when cool add halved cherry tomatoes, thickly sliced cucumber (skinned and seeded), sliced scallions, olive oil, lemon juice and chopped parsley. Finally gently mix in some cubed feta cheese. Do this last as it tends to break up. Other stuff (olives, lime juice, chilies, cilantro etc,) can be included if you like.

                          The saffron makes a real difference and my kids (11+15) love it......It's expensive, so of course they do!

                          Can be made 24 hours ahead. Keeps fine in the icebox.

                          1. Ina Garten's couscous with saffron, zucchini and herbs

                            1. Saffron AiolĂ­: infuse some very hot water and saffron threads, use when making aiolĂ­.

                              Same infusion is nice when making challah, although the effect is more visual than tasteable.

                              1. if you want a handdown delicious and ridiculously easy saffron dish.

                                for one serving, scrap together about
                                5 mussels
                                3 shrimp
                                piece of whitefish such as mahi or grouper
                                2 large scallops

                                heat allclad pan with oil, sear scallops and shrimp. deglaze with white wine, add some chopped garlic, toss fish and mussels in the pan.

                                pour in a 8 ounce can of tomato juice, a pinch of saffron.
                                cover pan for about 5 minutes.

                                take out all the seafood, keep warm,
                                mounte au beurre the sauce,

                                serve over sauce over angel hair, and arrange seafood around it.

                                serve with fresh lemon wedges if ya like

                                oh and try buying your saffron from an italian importer... soooo much cheaper

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: leehunbeltipo

                                  I think saffron is also often a part of cioppino and other fish stews.

                                2. I want to thank you all for these incredible replies... replies which were so good that this thread was selected as one of four summarized in the weekly Chow Digest!! I am busy persuading friends to help cook these dishes, or some of them, and will report back when I do.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Brian S

                                    Oh I forgot to add that why I got the saffon in the first place (though too late to use it) was this wonderful recipe for a cod stew.

                                  2. If anyone is looking to purchase saffron, be wary of corrupted product. Given the poor exchange rate and a small crop the price of saffron has increased three-fold since last year, leading many to market less than pure saffron (read, hay) as the real thing. Be very wary of any store offering one ounce of saffron for less than $100 and ask about coloring strength, guarantees and certifications before buying.

                                    -AJ Gourmet

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: ajgourmet03

                                      I have a half ounce in route from http://saffron.com/. Should have it in a day or two. I have had many people tell me that they have ordered there and the products are good. Just under $80/ounce. They offer lab reports if you trust it


                                    2. This is a tasty vegetarian recipe from Food and Wine. It calls for spinach, chickpeas, a few raisins and some saffron.


                                      I also occasionally still make a variation of Arroz con Pollo recipe from Elisabeth Lambert Ortiz' original version of The Complete Book of Mexican Cooking, 1965 edition. I add extra garlic and some frozen peas and sub roasted red peppers for the pimento garnish.

                                      This always brings back memories because this was one of the first recipes that I tried from the books that I poured over as an older teen, tantalized by all of the tasty possibilities that lay beyond the world of Hamburger Helper and Wonder Bread that was our 1960's-70's suburban food culture.

                                      Here's a paraphrase with a few changes:

                                      Arroz con Pollo
                                      Season a cut-up frying chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. In a dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pan, saute chicken in a small amount of olive oil until lightly browned on both sides. Remove chicken from pan and add 2 medium onions that have been sliced or chopped. When the onions are softened, add chopped garlic (the recipe calls for one clove, but I use three) and two finely chopped serrano peppers and cook until garlic is fragrant. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, black pepper to taste, 1 teaspoon ground cumin and a scant 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads that have been softened in a bit of hot water, along with 4 cups of chicken stock and 1 3/4 cups of rice. Return chicken to pot, cover tightly with lid, and simmer until chicken is cooked through and rice is tender and has absorbed all the stock, about 30 minutes, stirring every few minutes. If the rice is still too firm when the all the broth is absorbed, add a little more broth or water as needed. Add as many frozen baby peas as you like, as well as some chopped roasted red pepper, and heat through. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

                                      Dont' overdo the saffron, or your final dish with be somewhat bitter.

                                      1. Having read everyone else's suggestions, I can only second them all, but my fave is paella Valenciana (as long as the recipe includes mussels, clams, and I throw in squid tentacles for taste and decoration!). And I would also second the suggestion that you absolutely do give just "plain" old saffron rice a try. Reason? Because it will give your palate the cleanest "memory" of saffon's flavor, so I would recommend trying it before all others. Oh, and it's really good too...!

                                        1. Classic European preparations (aside from rice) including saffron are light cream-based sauces that are suitable for shellfish (whether a soup or broth) or pasta. The Italian region of Abruzzo (where my family is from) is one of the largest saffron producers in the world, and they have some very interesting saffron-kissed preparations, including saffron honey drizzled over ricotta, or farmer's cheese with bruschetta; in marinades for roast lamb... I personally like a light cream sauce with saffron as a condiment to tagliatelle. It can also be used to add a hint of spice to polenta.
                                          Other than these dishes, there are breads and pastries that use it (mostly persian/arabic in origin.
                                          A little bit of saffron goes a long way- and be sure to preserve the flavor by keeping the jar sealed and the threads as intact as possible. When ready to use it, grind it finely between your thumb and index finger (or under the back of a spoon). 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. per recipe is usually sufficient.