Story by Shannon Wianecki | Photography by Cecilia Fernández Romero
The stuff of song and legend, saffron is the world’s priciest spice. Its deep red “threads” are actually dried flower stigmas, handpicked from a lovely lavender crocus, and sold for over $1,000 per pound. Luckily, just a pinch of saffron releases its magic, imbuing dishes with a rich yellow color, and a flavor that poets compare to a mingling of hay, honeyed musk, leather, and almonds. However, there can be too much of a good thing; in large doses, saffron tastes unpleasantly metallic and can even be fatal.
Native to Asia Minor, saffron stars in many favorite regional dishes, from Indian pilafs to Spanish paella and risotto. Its delicate flavor combines well with fish and seafood.When cooking with saffron, crush threads to a fine powder with a mortar and pestle or steep them in hot water. Some sources recommend soaking threads for at least two hours, until they have nearly doubled in size, to release their full potency. Read about our adventures using saffron to recreate Chef Beverly Gannon’s snapper recipe in MNKO’s Test Kitchen.
Try Chef Beverly Gannon’s recipe yourself.