Saffron is an extraordinary flavor that I simply adore. It’s also one of the most precious spices in the world. When I am at the store, I often wonder just why it’s so expensive. Well, after a little research I now have the answer.
Gathered from crocus flowers, saffron is a difficult spice to obtain. The flowers are picked, by hand, on the day they bloom. The blood-red, thread-like stigmas are plucked immediately for drying. It takes 250,000 crocus blooms to make a single kilo of saffron. I guess it should come as no surprise then that a gram of the spice can cost more than $30. Fortunately, a little goes a long way!
1 fennel bulb
3 garlic cloves
1 pound mussels
1 pound bay scallops
1 pound skinless halibut
1 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
1 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons olive oil
5 cups fish stock (or clam juice)
Trim fennel stalks flush with bulb, discard stalks, and trim any discolored outer layers. Halve bulb lengthwise and discard core. Finely chop fennel and onion. Mince garlic. Scrub mussels well and remove beards. Cut halibut into 1-inch pieces. Stir saffron into wine.
In a large stockpot cook fennel and onion in oil over moderate heat, stirring, until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add wine mixture and simmer until reduced by half.
Add mussels with 2 cups of stock and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until most mussels are opened, about 4 minutes. Add scallops, halibut and remaining stock and cook at a low simmer until fish is just cooked through. (Discard any unopened mussels.) Season mixture with salt and pepper.
Garnish with lemon wedges and serve with warm bread.