Thursday, May 9, 2013

Recipe of the Week: Scallops in Saffron Sauce

Saffron is a spice derived from the crocus flower.  It's amongst the worlds most costly spice by weight and is native to Southwest Asia and was first cultivated in Ancient Persia as far back as 10,000 BC.

Because each flower's stigmas need to be collected by hand and there are only a few per flower, saffron is the most expensive spice in the world.

Saffron's aroma is often described by connoisseurs as reminiscent of metallic honey with grassy or hay notes, while it's taste has also been noted as hay-like but sweet.  It also has a luminous yellow-orange color.

Fortunately a little bit of saffron goes a long way.  In fact, too much saffron can ruin a dish.  Also, saffron needs moisture to release its flavor and the best way to extract flavor is to soak the threads in warm liquid (like a tea) for 5-20 minutes.

I have a nice container of saffron threads in my spice cabinet, a gift from my step-dad, Kenny who received them from a co-worker who brought them back from Iran.  He didn't know how to use them, knew of their value and I've been wondering what to do with them for quite sometime when I came across this wonderful dish.

If you are not a scallop fan, the sauce would be wonderful on another fish, chicken or pasta.


Sea Scallops in Saffron Cream Sauce


6 tablespoons butter - divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
12 large sea scallops - patted dry
Salt and pepper
1 cup dry white wine, divided
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
pinch of saffron threads (soak in 1/2 cup white wine)


In a nonstick pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, warming the pan to medium-high.  Add 6 scallops at a time, season with salt and pepper and sear well of both sides.  Repeat the process (I wipe out my pan and start over with the butter and the oil).  Remove scallops from pan once they are done and keep warm.

Add 1/2 cup wine to the pan (wine without saffron) and deglaze the pan.  Reduce temperature to medium-low and allow the wine to reduce by half, then add the wine with the saffron and again, reduce by half.

Add the cream and the rest of the butter and allow to combine.  

Return the scallops to the pan.  Turn to coat and serve immediately.

Notes: I found my sauce came out a bit salty, so go easy on the salt when seasoning your scallops.  Depending on how thick you like your sauce, you may need to add a touch more of cream.  You might want to double the sauce and add to leftover pasta.