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Saffron Sauce

posted in Soups, Salads, Sides and Sauces by Kathy Maister
difficulty rating

In celebration of the Boston premier of the movie No Reservations, I was sent all of the recipes featured in the film. Tomorrow night I am going to be hosting a special screening of the movie, which officially opens on Friday, July 27. I’ve never done anything like this before! Wish me luck!

From recipes in the film, I’ve made the Scallops into a video which I’m sure you will enjoy, and this Saffron Sauce accompanies it perfectly.

Let’s startcooking!

If you are at all nervous about making cooked sauces this is the place to begin. This one is on the really easy end on the “degree of difficulty” scale. It’s an incredibly rich sauce which goes well with chicken or fish. Before eating this sauce, plan on doing a few extra minutes on the treadmill tomorrow!

Saffron is a spice which looks like tiny threads. (It is actually the yellow-orange stigmas from the purple crocus flower.) It is used to tint and flavor food.

It is expensive, but you only use a tiny bit.

For this recipe you will need:

  • 1/2 cup of finely minced shallots
  • 1/2 cup of dry white wine
  • 1 pinch of saffron threads
  • 2 tablespoons of heavy cream
  • 1 stick of cold butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice and
  • Some Salt and pepper

As always, get all your ingredients measured and prepared before you turn on the stove.

Shallots are bought loose or in small net bags. They are a cross between onions and garlic.

Peel the shallots and then mince them. (That means to chop them really fine.)

Squeeze fresh lemon juice. Be sure to strain off the seeds.

Cut the butter into about 8 pieces. Then put it back in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it. One trick with this sauce is that the butter has to be really cold when you add it to the pan.

Add the wine and shallots to a small, heavy pot

Turn the temperature to medium-high and bring the wine and shallots to a boil. Continue to boil everything down to about 2 Tablespoons. That should take about 3 minutes.

Turn the heat down to medium low and add the saffron.

Then add the heavy cream.

Now, whisk in the butter. Add the next piece before the last one has completely melted…..Stirring constantly! Don’t allow the mixture to come to a boil.

Add 2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice.

And some salt and pepper to your taste.

The shallots add a lot of texture to this sauce. If you wanted a really smooth sauce, you could strain the sauce and discard the cooked shallots.

This is a perfect meal to serve to company!


Adapted from: No Reservations

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Justin said:

I’ve heard before that by weight saffron is more expensive than gold. Do you know if this is true?

Kathy Maister said:

Saffron is considered to be the MOST expensive spice in the whole world. Fortunately you only ever use a few thread at a time. I’m not up on the price of gold (or diamonds for that matter!) so I’m not sure how it compares. Saffron can cost about $45-$60 per ounce. An ounce of saffron is a TON of saffron! But how does the old saying go, “If you have to ask…”!

julien said:

saffron is a girl’s best friend, kathy? :)

blork said:

A note: there’s saffron, and there’s “american saffron.” The former is expensive and delicious, while the latter is a cheap knockoff that should be avoided. Like you say, you only use a bit at a time, so why not go with the real stuff?

Kathy Maister said:

Hey Blork, thanks for the tip! The last time I bought saffron was from the spice market in Istanbul. It does last a long time. (Note: if it smells musty, don’t buy it or use it!)

Kathy Maister said:

The Secret Ingredient!
Junia, from Orlando FL just e-mailed me to ask what the secret ingredient was for the Saffron Sauce in the movie. They never actually included it in the recipes that were sent to me BUT the “secret ingredient is kaffir leaves! If you look very carefully in the movie you will see Catherine Zeta Jones smelling these leaves at the market.

They are available in Asian markets but it is not available at my local grocery store! This sauce is rich and decadently delicious with or without kaffir leaves!

Nadia said:

This saffron cream sauce tastes wonderful on chicken!!! You must try it!!!

Niki said:

As far as the 2 types of saffron go, how do you know which is which?

The brand of saffron i bought was McCormick’s Gourmet spice. Is that the “real” saffron? Or a knock-off?

Kathy Maister said:

Hi Niki, McCormick is a very reputable brand name in the spice world. Although I have never purchased their saffron I can only imagine that it must be the real thing.

Kathy Maister said:

Hi Meagan,
This recipe was developed by a group of professional chefs for the movie “No Reservations” (Castle Rock Entertainment). Yes there is a ton of butter in this Saffron (butter) sauce. Some do consider it a decadent treat!

Niki said:

I agree that this is WAY off my diet… But of course, I couldnt resist…

However, now that I’ve got downt he flavor profile, Im working with new ideas so that I can keep the flavor while making this more health concious.

I recently replaced the butter with “Smart Balance” which… well, it wasnt bad at all, but ended up tasting cheap.

My co-workers are my guinea pigs, so when I have a winning recipe, Ill post it somewhere.

Kathy Maister said:

Nikki, Let me know when you have perfected your recipe. You never know where it might end up getting published!

Mike said:

I just tried this. It was delicious. I had to make some changes: I used chopped mushrooms instead of the shallots… and a half a tomato. I also added a few capers. I used margarine instead of all the butter and 2% milk instead of cream; then I heated the mixture longer to boil it down. The Saffron actually came from India; where I bought it! :)

Kathy Maister said:

Wow Mike! You made some major substitutions! I’m gald it turned out well.

Di said:

I can’t wait to try this. I’ve fallen in love with the film to the point where I even cook to opera now! Are you going to post the rest of the recipes from the movie or are they on here somewhere? This is my first visit to your site and I love it! I love to cook and I love to try new recipes. Great site!

Kathy Maister said:

Hi Di, Warner Brothers sent me all the recipes from the movie. They were developed by professional chefs for professional chefs. Which means they were written in very vague terms. This saffron sauce and the scallops video are the only two recipes that I have made for The other recipes were a bit advanced for most beginners!

Niki said:

hey kathy, you asked me to let you know when i perfected my own recipe. and so i did at last.

im not sure about posting it online due to the fact that someone might steal it and recieve undeserved credit. however, you have inspired to attempt creating my own cookbook, which i hope will do nicely, especially for vegitarians like myself.

thank you! and ifd youd like the jist of my recipe let me know, but id rather it not be posted.

Kathy Maister said:

Niki, that is so exciting!
Good luck with developing your own cookbook!

Erin said:

If you wanted to add the kaffir leaves, how would you go about adding them into the recipe and use them correctly?

Kathy Maister said:

Kaffir lime leaves have a very strong flavor and are often added to soups and sauces whole, then removed before eating. This is very similar to using a bay leaf. OR they can be sliced into fine threads. Here is a great photo and description and recipe links using Kaffir Lime leaves.

Dave said:

North American Saffron, IMHO, is okay, just not as flavourful as the Egyptian or Spanish varieties.  As a result, you have to use a bit more for the same taste.

Can’t wait to try this — 

Kathy Maister said:

This sauce is really (really!) rich with all that butter! It makes for a delicious splurge – great to serve to company!

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