Saffron Potatoes and Cod
It’s kind of fun to enjoy some humor of food tasting origins like ‘Who thought it might be a good idea to try this out first?’ Really. Who’s first instinct was even to attempt opening an oyster shell and upon opening it to put it in their mouth? Raw. Or to cook it some way. How about the prickly artichoke? How did people proceed with these newly identified ingredient possibilities? Perhaps the decider was a village elder who passed the tasting job along to the criminal in the tribe, the least liked in the group, or the perceived town idiot. If the taste tester survived, well, they had gained knowledge for sharing between the group and desirably, more good food was add to the repertoire.
When the late Penelope Casa’s cookbook, The Foods & Wine of Spain was published years back I became enamored with the use of saffron and began expanding on preparing dishes which incorporated its use, frugally that is, saffron being the most expensive spice in the world.
I quickly learned the high end value of saffron visiting the former Spice Shop housed at the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia where the threads of deep red flavoring were kept locked behind the wood makeshift counter and carefully measured by the manager. Luckily you could purchase small amounts, enough to prepare at least a few dishes.
Saffron also makes me to ponder, whose idea was it to carefully handpick three little connected stamen threads from a crocus flower, taste it, and determine hey, this is the quintessential complement to many foods, we can make this the most expensive, yet highly desired, sought after of spices along the Silk Road and throughout the world?
My exploration with saffron moved from pork and clams, to white beans with saffron and potatoes with saffron and risotto with saffron then on to Moroccan cuisine en route to India. The evolved knowledge also lent me the wisdom of being sure to purchase a good amount of saffron for a very reasonable price at the spice markets while in Kerala, India last year, or was it actually the year before? Does life fly by so quickly that it just begins to blend together?
Fortunately, we’ve been gifted with many versatile ingredients and preparations to enjoy, glorious saffron, the humble potato, wild cod from the ocean, and people before us brave and creative enough to be willing to test it all out first.
- For the Potatoes:
- generous pinch saffron, about 10-12 strands
- 4 cups hot chicken stock, 1 cup separated
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small red onion chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 pounds potatoes, peeled, cubed
- For the Fish:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 4 cod fillets, around 4-6 ounces each
- 1 cup white wine
- 1 packet of Sazon (boxes with packets of Sazon may be found at any supermarket in the Mexican food section)
- remaining juice from the saffron potatoes
- 8 roasted cherry tomatoes or 8 fresh quartered cherry tomatoes
- coarse kosher salt
- few grinds cracked black pepper
- For the Potatoes:
- crush saffron in a small bowl and pour over one cup of the hot chicken stock
- Heat a large sized shallow pan, add in the olive oil and swirl to cover the bottom of the pan
- Add in the onions, stir and cook on very low heat until onions are softened and translucent, around seven minutes
- Scrape in the garlic, stir, tumble in the potatoes, stir and cook three minutes
- Pour in the hot chicken stock, plus the hot chicken stock with the saffron
- Cook potatoes in seasoned stock mixture on medium heat until just tender through
- Transfer potatoes to a large bowl and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm
- Transfer liquid to another bowl
- For the Fish:
- Add olive oil and butter to the same pan used to cook the potatoes, swirl to cover the bottom of the pan
- Set cod fillets into the pan and cook on medium low heat for five minutes, turn cod over
- Pour white wine into the pan, increase heat and cook until wine is reduced by half
- Sprinkle in the Sazon packet and stir gently in the liquid to the side of the fish
- Tumble in the cherry tomatoes
- Pour the potato liquid into the pan
- Cook fish another few minutes until just done, transfer cooked fillets into shallow serving bowls
- Gently tumble potatoes back into the pan, stir, increase heat, and warm through an additional few minutes
- Sprinkle in salt and pepper, stir, check seasoning and adjust to taste
- Spoon potatoes around the cod fillets ladling over some of the juices
- Garnish with parsley before serving