You can never go wrong serving roasted potatoes. They are super easy to make and pair perfectly with everything from roasted turkey to cheeseburgers. But how do you make ordinary roasted potatoes taste extraordinary? Add a touch of saffron and enjoy! Crispy on the outside and with the sweet and earthy flavors of the saffron spice baked in, these Saffron Roasted Potatoes will turn your basic side dish into one of the main attractions at your next meal.
What is Saffron? Known as the “crown jewel” of spices, Saffron is the most expensive spice currently on the the market. Primarily imported from Spain, Iran or India it is known for it’s crimson color, distinct flavor, and hefty price tag. Made from the thread-like stigmas of the saffron crocus flower (or Crocus Sativus), each bloom produces three stigmas that are then extracted by hand to preserve their color and flavor. Because of this, it can take anywhere from 50,000-75,000 blooms to produce a single pound of the spice (and explains why it is so expensive)!
While the exact origins of saffron are unclear, the spice has been used for centuries and is highly regarded for it’s medicinal uses . Ancient Egyptians used it to help relieve gastrointestinal issues while Romans believed that saffron was useful to treat wounds as well as respiratory issues such as colic and coughs. Today, doctors are researching the its effect on treating mild depression, asthma and even if it helps to fight cancer.
Buying and preparing Saffron: First off, don’t let the cost scare you. A little bit goes a long way so there is no need to buy a big jar. Saffron comes in 2 forms- threads and powder. When buying the threads, make sure that they are all crimson red in color. Pure saffron should have slight variations in red color, but should be absent of any yellow or orange for the most flavor. Sometimes the yellow stamen of the plant are added into the mix but these have no flavor or nutritional value (it’s basically filler). Saffron threads can release flavor for up to 24 hours, so make sure to soak them in warm water for 15-20 minutes before using to help release the flavors (the longer you leave soaking, the stronger the flavor). When using saffron powder, there is no need to soak and they spice flavors are already activated when ground.
Saffron vs. Safflower: Now when you head to your local supermarket you may be surprised to find something labeled “Saffron (Safflower)” in the spice aisle. Don’t be fooled- this is not saffron! Safflower, or Carthamus Tinctorius, is another blooming flower that is commonly called American Saffron, Mexican Saffron, or in some cases the “bastard saffron”. It has similar coloring and will look like regular saffron to the untrained eye, but the flavors are not as intense. I made the mistake of buying this once and have used this to make roasted potatoes before and with great results (I have included the Safflower alternative to recipe below).