Chicken in creamy saffron sauce. My mouth is watering. Chicken is so versatile. Entire books have been dedicated to numerous recipes for this feathery friend. I will admit, right off the bat, saffron is a favorite of mine. It’s expensive I know, but it is so delicious and delicate. By the way, in my book, you can’t go wrong with cream.
Make chicken in creamy saffron sauce on a weekend, to share with your family or friends. Although it sounds fancy you can make this meal in about one hour. Really! Now, I will admit that saffron is kind of expensive, but a little goes a long way. I often get asked: Why is saffron so darn expensive? Is there a substitute? Well, it’s so expensive because it has to be harvested by hand. It takes about 70,000 stems to get a pound of saffron. Holy cow!!! Yup, that’s a lot of stems, and a lot of picking. Now, as far as a substitute? Sorry, but no! No spice or herb is a good substitute for the delicate taste of saffron.
The word saffron is of Arabic origin: Za’fran, meaning yellow. Interestingly enough, the Spanish word for saffron is azafran, almost identical to its Arabic counterpart. The deep reddish threads (stigma) of the crocus turn a deep yellow when they come in contact with water. Saffron features prominently in Persian and Mediterranean cuisine. You can’t possibly make a paella (the typical Spanish seafood and rice dish) or an Adas Polow ( a Persian dish consisting of rice, lentils and raisins) without saffron. Apart from its use in savory dishes, saffron is also used in cakes and other sweets. More on that later.
Saffron has often played a prominent role in world history. In ancient Egypt for example, it was used as an additive to perfume, as a dye, and also as medicine. It also had a religious use: saffron cakes were used as offerings the gods. In ancient Mesopotamia saffron was used as both an aromatic and as an aphrodisiac. And, in the profitable spice trade of the Middle Ages, it was considered among the most desired spices along with cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg. According to Greek mythology, the god Hermes accidentally struck his friend Croco lethally wounding him. In the spot where blood dripped, Hermes touched his sword and flowers began to grow. These flowers were, well… crocuses! Another reference to saffron in Greek mythology has Zeus sleeping on a bed of saffron.
Saffron also appears in the social rituals of antiquity. Saffron was allegedly scattered at the feet of Roman emperors; not surprising given the excesses that characterized the Roman Empire. Along the same vein, saffron is supposed to have been sprinkled on the couches of fashionable homes so guests could breathe in the sweet aroma. I just hope the couches were not white!!! It was also thrown on the beds of newlyweds in Ancient Rome (Remember saffron’s aphrodisiac use in ancient Mesopotamia?.)
So now that you know more about saffron than you ever thought possible, I think you will enjoy making this delicious chicken in creamy saffron sauce. After all, saffron is a winner in my book, and chicken? Well you can never go wrong with chicken, or cream! right? If you’re interested in more recipes containing saffron, be sure to check them out on my blog.
- 2½ lbs. chicken breast
- 1 tsp. Kosher salt
- ½ tsp. cracked pepper
- ⅛ tsp. nutmeg
- 2 egg beaten
- 1 cup flour
- Vegetable oil for pan frying.
- For the sauce:
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 shallot minced
- 1 garlic clove minced
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- ½ cup white wine
- ½ tsp. saffron
- 2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
- Preheat oven to 200'F.
- Cut each chicken breast half into two pieces width wise. Lightly pound each piece to about ¼" thickness.
- In a small bowl mix together the salt, pepper and nutmeg.
- Place beaten egg and flour in two separate shallow bowls ( a couple of pie pans work very well).
- Add salt mixture to flour and mix well.
- Dip the chicken breasts into the egg and then into the flour until they are well coated.
- Heat oil in a shallow frying pan. Use only enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan.
- Fry each chicken breast piece for about 3-4 minutes on each side. You might have to add some oil for every batch of chicken breasts you cook.
- Place the fried chicken breasts in an oven safe platter and place in oven to keep warm.
- To prepare the sauce:
- In the same pan, on medium heat saute the shallot and garlic until shallot is translucent. Deglaze with wine. Scrape up the little bits and continue to cook until most of the wine has evaporated. Add the cream, and saffron. Cook sauce on low for about 5-10 minutes or until nappe consistency.
- Remove from heat.
- Bring the chicken breasts out of the oven and pour saffron sauce over the chicken breasts.
- Sprinkle with parsley.