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
Braised Saffron Carrots
- 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.
Recipe Testers Reviews
This carrot dish is unique and quite wonderful. How special can braised carrots be? Well, with the surprise of the sherry vinegar and hint of saffron, the braised carrots turn into something special. The only caveat I have regarding the recipe, as it is written, is that the carrots are supposed to be braised to al dente, so be sure to check the carrots after even eight minutes to see how they are progressing. The dish is much better with carrots cooked al dente, as opposed to completely cooked to softness. The dish needs the slight “crunch” of the carrot to hold up to the sherry vinegar.
Wow — what a pleasant surprise! The saffron was such a natural match for the buttery carrots. I halved the recipe and needed to remove the carrots after about 12 minutes or so as they were getting too soft and starting to caramelize (no complaining here — yum). They were tasty hot off the stove but also cooled down to room temperature. I’ll definitely be making this one again and again.
Yum! The recipe doesn’t require a lot of effort, but delivers some great flavors. The carrots are kind of silky (I might use a touch less oil next time, but then again maybe not :) and lightly spicy from the saffron. I couldn’t stop eating these. Make a big batch!
What a wonderful, easy recipe. The end result was exceptional —sweet, tender and tasty. We served them aside beans and oxtail, and, oddly enough, they paired amazingly well. Apart from the fact that one can cook the carrots ahead of time, this is a beautiful, tasty, and fast side dish for a weeknight.
It is good, good for you, tasty and extremely easy. The saffron is an unusual ingredient for carrots.