Vanilla Saffron Sauce Two Ways: Over Red Snapper and Bathing Mussels
Saffron and vanilla are not often paired together and it’s a wonder why. The earthy, elegant flavor and sweet aromatics of vanilla blend beautifully with the warm and powerful punch packed in each individual thread of saffron. Sadly though, vanilla is reserved for sweet treats and saffron—well, despite its spectacularity in flavor and color, it’s often forgotten altogether.
I feel that this is quite simply, culinary impiety and it has gone on far too long. So, I set out to develop a recipe that combines the two spices to create a remarkable dish to jolt the taste buds. Here it is:
Vanilla Saffron Sauce
*Note: to make both the red snapper and the mussels, double the sauce recipe.
- ¼ cup chopped shallot
- ½ teaspoon minced garlic
- ¼ cup white wine vinegar
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1 pinch each of salt and fresh cracked pepper
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 vanilla bean (Tahitian)
- 1 sprig of thyme
- 4 tablespoons unsalted sweet cream butter, divided
- ¼ teaspoon saffron threads
- Saute the shallot and garlic in 2 TBSP of sweet cream butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
- Add the white wine vinegar, salt, pepper, and broth.
- Simmer until the broth has reduced by half and add in the cream.
- Gently crush saffron between two spoons and add to mixture. Simmer for 10 minutes
- Extract the seeds from the vanilla pod (here are some tips on how to do this) and add to the mixture, along with the thyme. Simmer for 10 more minutes.
- Slice the remainder of the butter into 1 TBSP sized pieces and stir into the sauce one at a time.
Steam mussels or clams in the sauce, drizzle over baked red snapper, seared scallops, another seafood, or atop grilled spring vegetables. Serve alongside wild mushroom and asparagus risotto or with a simple pasta dish.
FOR THE RED SNAPPER:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Sprinkle a 1.5-pound filet of red snapper with salt, pepper, and orange zest
- Melt 2-3 TBSP of sweet cream butter into a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat and mix in 1 TBSP of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of minced garlic.
- Place the snapper, skin side down in skillet and spoon some of the olive oil/butter/garlic mixture over top.
- Bake for approximately 15 minutes or until snapper is tender and flaky but not dry.
- Pull from skillet and plate immediately, drizzling with the saffron sauce.
FOR THE MUSSELS:
- Debeard one pound of mussels and rinse them under cold water.
- Add the mussels to the saucepan with the vanilla saffron sauce and cover with a lid.
- When the mussels have opened, they are ready to eat.
- Don't forget to put an empty bowl on the table to throw your shells in!
I can think of dozens of ways to use this sauce. Let us know what you do with yours!