Posts Tagged ‘spices’

Bring a Little Saffron into The Restaurant

November 29, 2013

Saffron is one of those spices that many restaurants don’t mess with – mainly because it’s expensive! That said, if you serve dishes which include paellas, couscous, pilaf, risotto, or any kind of seafood such as shrimp or mussels, you’d do well to consider adding some saffron to the chef’s pantry. This distinctive herb has a unique, floral, and honey-like taste, with a slightly bitter after note. It can make all the difference when used with the above foods, as well as with a number of others. Here’s a bit of information and a few tips on using this ancient spice.

There’s a Reason Saffron Costs what it Does

Saffron can sell for up to $2000 a pound. While some of that cost may be due to the history of the spice, more of it has to do with how saffron is procured in the first place. You see, the spice we use as saffron is actually the dried stigma of the saffron flower. The thing is, it must be harvested by hand, removing each of the three stigmas from the crocus one at a time.

Furthermore, this painstaking work must be done at dawn before the flower opens. Worse, it takes 75,000 flowers to produce a single pound of saffron! Iran currently produces 90 percent of the world’s saffron and has a strict grading scale of color, taste, and fragrance to determine quality. The dried stigmas are red when you buy them, but it turns foods a rich golden color (which is why it’s also used for a dye).

Tips to Make the Best Use of the Saffron You Buy for Your Restaurant

With a spice this expensive, you’re going to want to use it sparingly. That said, there’s a few simple tips you can employ to get the most bang for your buck. First of all, buy the dried stigmas threads rather than the powdered form of saffron. While the powdered form is more potent and easier to measure, it also loses its flavor quickly. The best way to get every little bit of flavor from saffron is to crush up the threads and soak them in hot (not boiling) water, wine, or stock broth for about 15 minutes. You can then add this liquid to your recipes. Make sure to store dried saffron in airtight containers away from light to prevent it from breaking down.

Examples of How You Might Use Saffron in Your Restaurant

Saffron is most famously used in a French fish stew called bouillabaisse but there are a number of ways to utilize the spice in simpler dishes. Rice, for one, goes great with a pinch of saffron and some butter-sautéed onions. Try steaming some mussels with a bit of wine, garlic, and a touch of saffron for a unique, mouth-melting flavor. Smoked paprika, slivered garlic, and saffron mixed in olive oil serve as a delectable sauce for dipping bread and cooking shrimp.

Saffron is a strong spice, so a little goes a long way. Including it in your chef’s pantry is a simple way to add elegance and a rich, distinctive flavor to your menu offerings. Just remember not to use wooden spoons when cooking with saffron because they tend to absorb the color and flavor of this precious spice! For more ideas on how to make your restaurant pop, contact