If I can cook it, you can cook it And I'll travel the world to bring it back home to you.

Poached Salmon with Saffron Sauce and Mussels

One night, not too long ago, Andrew asked for something light for dinner.  I shouldn’t have been all that surprised because as the blog has been laden with cold weather comfort food, so has our table. I love the indulgence of these winter recipes but I get the point. So I found a recipe from Saveur Magazine that had all the elements of a classic winter meal.  There’s the rich flavor of poached salmon and it sits in a lovely sauce redolent with saffron and fennel and enough butter to make it silken.  The mussels float on top adding to the stew-like feeling I got from this dish.  I confess that I don’t often use Saffron and until this recipe, I would have to say that I was a little disappointed every time I did. For an ingredient that is, by weight, likely the most expensive item in the entire arsenal of spices we keep, its underperformance was shocking.  This time I got it right in two ways:  I bought the saffron at Trader Joe’s which sells it for the bargain basement price of 5.99 for .020 oz.  That’s still a lot of money but when it performs as it does in this recipe, it’s well worth the splurge.

        

Crocus Sativus

Saffron comes from the Crocus bulb but a very specific crocus called Crocus sativus or more commonly, the Saffron Crocus.  Only the plant’s stigmas, the tiny shoots in the center of the flower, are used to make saffron and since the crocus only bears up to four flowers, it’s wildly expensive by weight.  One staggering fact I learned was that in order to produce a single pound or 450 grams of Saffron you must harvest 50,000 to 70,000 flowers.   Saffron has been cultivated in Greece since at least the 7th Century BC.  It’s thought to be a great deal older than that, dating from the Bronze Age. Later it was traded in Eurasia and brought to parts of North Africa, North America and Oceania.  Today Iran accounts for fully 90 percent of the world’s saffron production.  Trader Joe’s Saffron is imported from Spain.  The more vivid the crimson color of saffron threads, the better it is considered to be.   It has a very subtle taste but it is prized for its color.  If you can’t spring for Saffron, safflower, annatto and turmeric have all been pressed into service as culinary substitutes giving the saffron color if not the subtle hay-like sweetness the genuine article brings to your dish. 

         As to the salmon, Saveur’s recipe called for Norwegian salmon.  My fishmonger has the most extraordinary variety of salmon hailing from fish farms and wild caught from Canada to Scotland to Alaska and Denmark which is where the fish I bought hailed from.  Poaching salmon gives it a luxurious tenderness that grilling doesn’t.  It’s a very easy dish to achieve on a weeknight as it takes under 30 minutes to put together.   Here is the recipe:


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