As promised, here is the update as to what happened to those beautiful pea tendrils I found at the market this past Saturday. After also finding some nice lamb chops and realizing my grill was out of steam, I decided to pan sear the chops, saute the market veg and serve it all over those beautiful sweet potatoes pictured in the last article Emerging from Dormancy To celebrate this special ingredient occasion, and to elevate everything to the next level, I threw together a saffron compound butter and mounted it into a butter sauce while sauteing the market veg.
Believe it or not, this is a relatively quick and easy dinner. Mind you, executing this menu was not as easy for me this time around due to the dark hours of my baby’s day always commencing around dinner prep time. That being said, I was able to make it happen while my partner played with our little one. He and I were ultimately delighted by the meal (even if we ended up eating it standing up and with our hands instead of proper utensils.) We still felt like royalty proving that saffron can bring elegance to any occasion.
Saffron butter can totally transform a special dish and can be an easy item to make ahead when you have time and pull out of your pantry whenever you feel you need some extra elegance in your life or when want to impress someone you are cooking for. Often times I will make compound butters (butter mixed with other ingredients i.e. herbs, blue cheese, reduced port or wine, etc.) and then freeze them to pop out and use when I feel like something decadent and fancy. Here is a simple recipe – treat yourself!
Saffron Compound Butter
1 stick (1/4 C) High quality butter, unsalted (I like to use grass/pasture raised milk fat)
1 pinch of high quality saffron threads (quality matters and you only need a tiny bit)
small splash of water (about a 1/2 teaspoon) for blooming the saffron
1 pinch of Himalayan sea salt (will season the butter and help grind the saffron threads)
Remove the butter from the refrigerator and give it a half hour or so to come to room temperature. I like to cube it to allow it more surface area and thus quicker temping. Meanwhile, toast the saffron in a medium hot pan very briefly until you smell the aroma beginning to bloom. Drop into a mortar and pestle and add a pinch of salt. Grind into a powder and then add a quick splash of filtered water. Pour over softened butter and mix until bright yellow and evenly blended. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed.
If you want to learn more about saffron there is a great article on serious eats that I would recommend reading. Here is the link http://www.seriouseats.com/2011/01/spice-hunting-saffron-how-to-use-guide.html Interestingly, it is the most expensive food on the planet due to the painstaking manner in which it must be harvested. It comes from the saffron crocus bulb (Crocus sativus) and each bulb only produces one flower, which only produces three saffron threads each. These threads must be then be harvested by hand. You get the picture.
Recently, I read an article talking about alternative crops that U.S. farmers should consider growing and saffron came up as an option. This got me thinking about what it would take to grow saffron myself in my home garden (just for fun of course and for a little cooking action….) It turns out that the saffron crocus can be relatively easy to grow given a sunny space in well drained soil, so we will be trying this out sometime soon and will let you know how it goes.