Friday, January 25, 2008

Saffron: yuck!

Is it just me, or does saffron tast like dirty old socks? I've never used saffron before, and I'm not sure if I'll ever use it again. There must be some good use for it, but as far as I'm concerned it just smells and tastes funky. I kind of wish someone had warned me of this fact before I coughed up $10 for a tiny packet. If any of you know of a good way to redeem saffron in my kitchen, I'll give you $10!

Today I felt like eating a healthy, hearty soup to refuel after lying in bed for almost 48 hours straight. I pulled this lentil soup recipe off of 101 Cookbooks by Heidi Swanson. It requires minimal shopping (aka cheap and easy) and offers up some powerful nutrients - a perfect post-illness meal. I felt nervous about the lack of garlic, so I threw some in along with some ground black pepper and a few splashes of balsamic vinegar at the end for some depth and complexity.

Luckily, the saffron did not go in the soup. It was mixed with some greek yogurt for garnish. I WAS NOT A FAN. I couldn't get the taste of dirty socks out of my mouth. I did, however enjoy Heidi's suggestion for fried shallots. Fried? Shallots? How can you go wrong? Or can you? I've done this several times now at RestoX: thin-slice shallot rings with mandolin, separate rings to fluffy mass, batter with flour, filter out flour through sieve, deep fry until golden, sprinkle with salt. Easy. The only mistake I made was to wield a camera in the process, and most of my shallots burnt to a crisp. I managed to salvage a few sad-looking, unappetizing pieces for my meal, and in hindsight I may have been lucky on this one because I'm sure I would have eaten the entire pan-full had they come out gold and lovely.


mimala said...

really, i have never heard such harshness towards saffron. it is a very delicate flavor. in fact, i wouldn't say saffron and dirty socks in the same sentence as you did... numerous times. i think one key is to not use so much. and it works well in sweet dishes.
try this. warm milk with ground almonds, sugar and a pinch of saffron ( a little cardamom); a delicious sweet drink.
please do not judge the delicate, expensive, sacred saffron.

Undercover Cook said...

Thanks, Mimala. I'll try that at home. I'm looking for variations on the "Brooklyn poor man's chai" and maybe the stinky... oops, I mean, the lovely saffron version will be my favorite.

The ground almonds, do you toast them first, or do you use raw?

mims said...

hmmm. you could toast them. but i think raw is ok. because when you warm it in the milk it should bring out the flavor.

you can grind them in a coffee grinder. that works well.

Undercover Cook said...

Mimala, I tried the drink tonight and it really was delicious - all but the saffron part. It vaguely smelled of dirty laundry water. Maybe I just got a bad batch. I really wanted to reward you the $10, but maybe after I try this again with the saffron from your pantry.