Thursday, March 26, 2009
Using Saffron to Make Yellow Rice
"Saffron Crocus" by LindaH
Two nights ago, I served yellow rice alongside the chiles rellenos I made. The bright yellow coloring of the rice came from using good quality saffron.
Saffron is, by weight, the most expensive spice in the world. An ounce of good quality saffron will run you about $100-$200, comparable to, say, an ounce of mid-grade weed in some parts of the U.S. (so I've heard only). Expensive, yes, but worth it (I'm talking about the saffron here). And because only a small amount of saffron is used at any given time, an ounce of saffron should last for quite a while.
Saffron is harvested from the red stigmas of the saffron flower, Crocus Sativus Linneaus. Each saffron flower contains 3 red stigmas, and it takes nearly 14,000 of these threads for 1 ounce of saffron. The primary reason for the high price of saffron is labor costs. Each thread must be picked by hand.
I use saffron mainly in rice dishes, for example, paella. It is the saffron that is responsible for turning the rice bright yellow and giving it that pungent, spicy flavor. Super cheap saffron substitutes made from dried safflower flowers may be found at large grocery stores for around $3.00 for a 1 ounce package. The package might even refer to the contents as saffron. I wouldn't bother. Dried safflower flowers add neither taste nor the proper coloring when added to a dish.
The brand of Spanish saffron I use is called The Gathering of Saffron, a 1 ounce tin of which I found on clearance online in December 2007. Other quality brands of Spanish saffron that are less expensive can be found online. You can also buy saffron in smaller amounts for much less. Again, the amount of saffron used at any given time is so small that it should last for quite a while.
Serves approximately 4
1 cup white rice (I used Uncle Ben's)
2 1/4 cups of vegetable broth or water (I used vegetable broth. See also note below)
1 tablespoons olive oil
A pinch of saffron (between 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon)
1/4-1/2 teaspoon of salt (not really necessary if you're using vegetable broth)
Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the rice and the saffron and stir until the grains are coated, about 1 minute. Add the broth or water and salt, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and cook for about 15 minutes, until all the liquid is absorbed. Fluff the rice with a fork and serve.
(Note: the amount of liquid you use depends on the kind of rice you use. Follow the instructions on the package with respect to the liquid-to-rice ratio.)