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Saffron


lperry
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I am making paella for dinner tonight, so I picked up a little jar of saffron at Trader Joe's today. $5.99 for 0.7 grams of Spanish saffron that is primarily red. I bought it at TJs because I didn't want to drive all the way to Penzey's in Falls Church. I checked their website, and their prices are higher, but they have both Indian and Spanish varieties. I've also seen saffron at Costco, and it is on their website, although I haven't checked in the store this year. They source it from Iran and it is priced quite a bit lower than TJs.

I have some experience with saffron, most of which I've bought in Indian grocery stores over the years. My knowledge, though, is limited to three main points: 1. go for red threads instead of yellow (advice from an Indian friend), 2. look closely to make certain you have stigmas and styles instead of the most common fake substitute, safflower petals, and 3. I really,really enjoy the flavor of saffron. I'm curious if anyone has noticed differences in flavor or quality in different saffrons, and I also would like to know where people are buying it and how they are using it. Anyone?

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I am making paella for dinner tonight, so I picked up a little jar of saffron at Trader Joe's today. $5.99 for 0.7 grams of Spanish saffron that is primarily red. I bought it at TJs because I didn't want to drive all the way to Penzey's in Falls Church. I checked their website, and their prices are higher, but they have both Indian and Spanish varieties. I've also seen saffron at Costco, and it is on their website, although I haven't checked in the store this year. They source it from Iran and it is priced quite a bit lower than TJs.

I have some experience with saffron, most of which I've bought in Indian grocery stores over the years. My knowledge, though, is limited to three main points: 1. go for red threads instead of yellow (advice from an Indian friend), 2. look closely to make certain you have stigmas and styles instead of the most common fake substitute, safflower petals, and 3. I really,really enjoy the flavor of saffron. I'm curious if anyone has noticed differences in flavor or quality in different saffrons, and I also would like to know where people are buying it and how they are using it. Anyone?

I also think it's critical to procure it via opaque containers. Light breaks it down faster than an earthquaked Jenga.

Most recent uses include Crocus-ing up various rice pilafs. Just throw a few threads into your cooking liquid for both color and flavor transformation. I'm sadly not a huge fan of saffron flavor, but am fascinated by the resulting hue.

And, of course, by the Firefly character of the same name. "Someone ever tries to kill you, you try to kill 'em right back." Ah, Serenity.

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Jeffrey Steingarten wrote a wonderful essay about training himself to overcome personal dislikes of certain foods for the sake of impartial and comprehensive reviews of meals he consumed.

I was motivated more by the number of Middle Eastern and Spanish recipes I wanted to make in which saffron was an integral component of the dish's flavors; previously I simply ignored instructions to add it when making Sicilian recipes or risotto to accompany osso buco. Gradually over the course of a year or so, I learned to love it.

There are interesting instructions for enhancing the flavor of saffron threads in my favorite recipe for paella (also linked at DR.com by Iron Stomach in a thread dedicated to the subject): here. I've followed advice on heating up threads wrapped tightly in foil on top of a lidded pot before infusing them in warm broth. Not sure how much difference it makes.

I recommend A & H Fish Co. in Bethesda (which I discovered thanks to Heather). Not sure it's one of their bargain finds. I last bought saffron at Whole Foods for more than the cost at TJ. The bottle contains a nifty, dark plastic pouch so that you can slit one side to empty a few threads while leaving the other half of the pouch tightly sealed.

(Funny, I was planning to go to TJ this week to pick up frozen artichoke hearts to make paella. Last week I bought one small dried chorizo from Red Apron, recipe based on José Andres's feedback to Nathan Anda's original batch.)

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I tried toasting the safffron last night. Instead of using aluminum foil, I put the threads in a pan that was heated on the stove. When they curled up a little and got crispy, I took them out, then bloomed them in the stock. Combined with the pimenton, it was a great flavor, and the color was beautiful.post-3913-12531183457_thumb.jpg

I used to make a saffron pasta, but haven't done it in ages. I think that will be next.

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