I’m Just Mad About Saffron. Saffron’s Just Mad About Me

By Kay Steiger

Flickr user David H-W (Extrajection)

Flickr user David H-W (Extrajection)

The WSJ magazine has a piece on saffron. At $3,000 a pound, saffron is the most expensive spice in the world, and yes, it has become cheaper now that sanctions on Iran have been lifted. (Also, apparently, a handful of saffron will shut down your liver. Gross.) I use saffron to make Swedish St. Lucia buns, but it seems clear that this is nowhere near a “traditional” food, since saffron would have to be imported to Sweden and would be extremely expensive. Still they’re tasty, and I’ll probably make them this holiday season. What do you use saffron for?

21 responses to “I’m Just Mad About Saffron. Saffron’s Just Mad About Me

  1. Pretty much just paella… but I kinda of wanted to make rouille when I saw that it had saffron in it from an article the NYT recently… just so I could pull it out and say “LOOK! The most expensive mayonnaise in the world!”

  2. I gotta say, I don’t get saffron. It’s beautiful, but it doesn’t really taste like anything to me.

  3. I bought some saffron a few years ago (at Trader Joe’s bargain basement price) and I can’t remember the recipe OR the taste. Beautiful color, unremarkable flavor.

    My favorite brand of Saffron:

    http://www.imdb.com/media/rm2775159808/nm0004787

  4. I’m surprised so many think that saffron doesn’t have much flavor. For me, it’s earthy and pungent at the same time–an absolute delight. I’ve found that steeping saffron in a small amount of hot water before adding it to a dish helps.

    Cork’s got a killer chickpea in saffron broth that comes and goes from the menu.

  5. Once made a dish that involved marinating lamb with saffron in onion water (strained juice from onions) for a day or two. Can’t remember the details or the roots (Afghani? Murghal?), but it was absolutely amazing… And heady, saffron is heady.

  6. It has a faintly medicinal and earthy smell that I love in risotto. Especially with peas, as the color goes so well.

  7. My husband used saffron to make a Moroccan chickpea dish that Jose Andres described on NPR. It was fabulous!

  8. The saffron lovers slowly emerge…

  9. an interesting note: we hear about saffron a lot vis middle eastern and moorish cuisine. but there is a lot of speculation that it reached england even before the 14th century as well…it appears often in western english cuisine,esp in the environs of cornwall.

  10. “I’m surprised so many think that saffron doesn’t have much flavor.”

    I would agree… I think it’s an incredibly strong flavor actually, that can really overpower dishes if you aren’t careful. Huh.

    Maybe this is like the cilantro thing? Some people think cilantro tastes like soap and some people can’t taste saffron.

  11. It’s entirely possible the saffrophobes like me are eating cheap and/or stale saffron. When it’s that expensive, they’re going to pry it from my cold, dead hands, and I don’t even like it that much.

    Do people ever throw out their dried spices every year like you’re supposed to? I just seems so wasteful. And there’s no way I’m going to plow through 4 oz. of marjoram every 12 months OR pay to replace it every time I need an 1/8 of a teaspoon.

  12. Perhaps mssr. Pollan can condemn Pomme for not cooking enough.

    But seriously, on spices…buy your spices from the “latin” aisle or from a bodega/indian/hallal joint. they are extraodinarily cheaper and come in smaller containers.

  13. Yeah I got to say I made a mussels with wine and saffron, bloomed it beforehand and everything, and I really couldn’t taste anything distinctive. I haven’t cooked with it other than that, hording my expensive spice for something else – maybe I’ll try risotto.

  14. I think JW’s theory may be true. I can believe that I’ve had old or lousy saffron before, but not in some of the restaurants where I’ve eaten it in paella or risotto. Those guys wouldn’t try to put one over on me.

  15. My girlfriend just brought me 3 grams of Iranian saffron bak from Istanbul. This post has inspired me to make paella this weekend.

  16. Interestingly, the Pennsylvania Dutch (who one normally thinks of as thrifty sorts) use saffron on occasion, particularly in chicken potpie. Not the sort of potpie you’d find in the frozen section – this is a chicken stew with pastry squares boiled in the liquid (so kind of chicken and dumplings done with a different kind of dough). One of my favorites from a childhood with a Mom who grew up in Palmyra PA.

  17. It definitely has a flavour. Steeping saffron in hot water before using is pretty much a required step. I’ve only ever cooked with Iranian saffron, but I suggest you try it in your next rice dish. Not all flavours/aromas need to pop in your face. Saffron’s subtlety and its aroma are part of the appeal for me.

  18. I don’t think saffron would have to be imported to Sweden; it can be grown in England, and it’s a crocus (which is fairly cold-tolerant).

  19. In tunisian and morrocan cuisine, we use it with lamb (lamb tajine, couscous with lamb ..)

  20. If you like saffron, you will love this rigatoni with braised chicken and saffron cream. It is unbelievable.
    http://michaelbeyer.wordpress.com/2010/09/24/rigatoni-with-braised-chicken-and-saffron-cream/

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