Spinach Matzo Balls in Saffron Broth

saffron fieldsLet 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.saffron sorting

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. Read More

Cajun Chicken Stroganoff

Photo courtesy main.kitchendaily.com

This comes together fast and is packed with flavor.  Not too spicy to serve even to those who stay away from the heat.  Carb-watchers can sub out cooked spaghetti squash for the egg noodles.  Just put two halves of a spaghetti squash in the microwave and nuke for 10 minutes.  Discard the seeds, and scoop out the spaghetti-like flesh. Read More

Classic Coq au Vin

½ C (4 oz) salt pork
3# chicken parts, to include breast, thighs, drumsticks, bone-in on all of them
1 T olive or good cooking oil
1/3 C Cognac or brandy
2 cloves garlic minced
1 bay leaf
1/4 t thyme
½ C fresh or canned tomatoes, diced
2 C Zinfandel or other young red wine
1 C chicken stock; more as needed
1½ T butter
1½ T flour
20 small pearl onions, peeled and sauteed until golden
3 C fresh mushrooms, trimmed, quartered or sliced and sauteed until golden
Chopped parsley

Cut salt pork into lardons 1×1/4 inches. Bring a small pan of water to a boil and
drop lardons in to blanch 2 minutes. Remove and dry on paper towels. Heat a
large pan and add lardons; saute to render the fat, adding olive or cooking oil as
needed. Discard cooked salt pork. Pat chicken pieces dry, season with salt and
pepper and add to hot oil in pan. Brown thoroughly on all sides, adding butter
or oil if needed. When chicken pieces are well-browned, turn off heat. Pour in
brandy, letting it heat briefly; ignite with a match and swirl pan to burn off the
alcohol, about 20 seconds. Turn heat back on low, add garlic and herbs, mix well
and cook gently about five minutes. Add wine and stock. Cover pan tightly and
simmer very gently 30 minutes, until chicken is tender when pressed. Remove
chicken to a side dish and degrease the sauce, using a degreaser or by refrigerating it for a few hours or overnight and removing the solidified oil.

Heat the degreased sauce and taste for seasoning; bring to a boil and then turn the heat down to a gentle simmer. In a small bowl, combine the flour and butter to make a beurre manie. Using a whisk and with rapid motion, whisk into the sauce. Stir gently until the sauce thickens, adding stock as needed. Add onions and mushrooms and pour over hot chicken. Garnish with parsley.