What’s the best way to add saffron to seafood gumbo?

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Saffron imparts a wonderful earthy, musky flavor to dishes and works particularly well with seafood.  Despite its deserved reputation for being extremely potent (as little of a tsp of threads will flavor 4-6 servings), saffron can be overpowered by other strong elements, so depending on your gumbo recipe you may want to reduce other spices or the bell peppers in your trinity to make room for it in the dish’s flavor profile.

Some recipes and saffron suppliers will recommend toasting saffron threads prior to use, but if your saffron’s particularly high quality (as in the case of our Iranian saffron threads) it will already be perfectly dried, and toasting can actually scorch it. 

What you are definitely going to want to do prior to adding saffron threads to your gumbo is steep them in hot liquid.  This will awaken their full flavor.  The hot liquid in question can be either water or stock, depending on your gumbo’s starting base, and you’ll want to steep them for at least 20 minutes (you can steep for up to several hours for more flavor) before adding the threads and the liquid to the pot.  Saffron’s flavor can withstand long-cooking, so feel free to add it to your gumbo as soon as you add the base liquid.

The other important consideration is to not use wooden utensils to stir your gumbo once the saffron goes in, as they can be permanently stained with the saffron’s color, aroma and flavor.

If you have high quality powdered saffron, you can use significantly less than threads (as little as one eighth as much) and pre-steeping is not as important.  Do keep in mind though that some powdered saffron is significantly weaker than others, so you may have to adjust depending on the strength of what you have.

– Question submitted by Tina

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