A few years ago, I followed the path of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza through La Mancha. The heart of Spain produces the most amazing (and expensive) spice in the world—saffron, the hand-harvested yellow-orange stigmas of a crocus flower. While other parts of Spain, as well as Italy, Greece, Pakistan, and India, all produce saffron, in La Mancha they rightly claim the title of the world’s finest.
As we watched, four women worked intently over a table covered with lavender crocuses. The odor was intoxicating. To get one kilo of saffron, they must pick the stigmas from 250,000 blossoms. Inspired by my trip, I created this braised saffron carrots recipe, glazed in butter, sherry vinegar, and saffron. Be sure the saffron is fresh, and don’t use too little—or too much. And don’t add it too soon or it will dominate the carrots.–Jonathan Waxman
LC Carrot Caveat Note
This is not the time or place to put those tired carrots languishing in your vegetable bin to use. The delicate flavors of this side dish demand freshly dug carrots at their sweet, sweet finest.
Braised Saffron Carrots Recipe
- Quick Glance
- 20 M
- 35 M
- Serves 4 to 6
- 2 pounds smallish carrots, preferably a mixture of orange, yellow, and maroon, fresh as can be
- Sea salt
- 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil (depending on how decadent you’re feeling)
- A good pinch saffron threads
- 1 to 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1. Trim and peel the carrots if you like. Leave the carrots whole or, if they’re quite thick, halve them lengthwise. Place them in a medium saucepan with 1 1/2 cups water and a little sea salt and bring to a boil. Cover and boil gently over medium heat until the carrots are al dente rather than completely tender through and through, 8 to 12 minutes. Drain the carrots and pat them dry. (You can set them aside at room temperature for a while if need be.)
- 2. Just before serving, warm the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the carrots and cook gently, turning occasionally, for 3 minutes. Add the saffron and sherry vinegar and cook for 2 minutes, turning the carrots once or twice. Add the butter, cover the skillet, and let stand off the heat for 5 minutes.
- 3. Season the braised saffron carrots with salt and pepper and serve immediately or at room temperature.
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