Let me tell you my saffron story. The lovely Evangeline, Adrienne’s globe-trotting daughter, was traveling in Morocco and the ONLY thing her mom requested was to bring back some Moroccan saffron. Regaling her parents with her adventures in the saffron fields outside of Marrakesh only made the request more justified and the desire for the spice more urgent. Some weeks later, just in time for Thanksgiving, Evangeline arrived at Dulles with Adrienne eagerly awaiting the prodigal child. The first thing I asked of her — the very first thing, even before, “How was your flight?” — was “So, did you get the saffron?” Evangeline’s stricken look did not need underscoring with the sad retelling of why no saffron was forthcoming.
In the ensuing weeks, nearly daily references, usually accompanied by a long sigh, to the absent saffron seemed the only way to assuage my grief. Then, on Christmas morning, Evangeline handed me a small, carefully wrapped package. In it, I found a small bottle of precious saffron from those self-same fields of blue outside of Marrakesh.
Way to keep a secret!
A sophisticated, company-dinner variation on the old (one could say ancient) stand-by, these lovely matzoh balls floating in flavor-rich saffron broth can served as a starter for Passover dinner. Expect to pay $20/gram (3 teaspoons) for the high-quality, flavor-packed saffron this recipe begs for. We adapted this recipe from Epicurious.
4 pounds chicken wings or one 4-pound chicken
16 cups water
1 pound (2-3) onions, quartered
6 bay leaves
1 t coarse salt
1½ t saffron threads
½ t whole black peppercorns
Spinach matzoh balls
1/4 C chicken fat, reserved from broth
1/4 C reserved broth
4 large eggs
1 t salt
½ t ground black pepper
1 C unsalted matzoh meal
1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, squeezed dry
1 C cooked minced chicken, reserved from broth
Put broth ingredients in a large pot. Bring to simmer over low heat; simmer 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Remove chicken bones from broth and when cool enough to handle, separate meat from bones and skin, reserving. Return bones and skin to broth pot and simmer another 2 hours. Strain broth, discarding solids. Chill broth in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, skim off the chicken fat and reserve for matzoh balls. (Broth can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and keep chilled.)
For matzoh balls
In a large bowl, measure out 1/4 C reserved chicken fat and 1/4 C chilled chicken broth. Whisk in eggs, salt, and pepper. Mix in matzoh meal, then spinach. Mince reserved chicken and measure out. Add to matzoh mixture and combine; taste for seasoning. Cover and chill until firm, at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.
Bring large pot of generously salted water to boil. Using wet hands and about 2 tablespoons for each, shape matzoh mixture into 16 balls; drop into boiling water. Reduce heat to low, cover pot, and simmer until tender, about 45 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer matzoh balls to 13x9x2-inch dish. (Can be made 1 day ahead; chill.)
Skim any remaining fat from top of broth; bring to simmer. Taste for seasoning, adding saffron as needed. Use salt sparingly as matzoh balls will be salted. Add cooked matzoh balls; simmer until heated through, about 10 minutes. Ladle broth and 2 matzoh balls into each of 8 bowls and serve.