While walking through the Muir Woods wearing my leggings and a black top, I met a friendly hiker on the trail who invited me to a fancy dinner. At the end of the walk, I started going through my bag to find something dressy to wear for the dinner. I was ecstatic to find a vibrant burgundy-colored silk scarf deep inside my bag, which I could just wrap around my shoulder like an elegant gown. In my California kitchen, saffron often plays the role of my striking “silk scarf” which helps turn my meals into something distinctive and luminous. Saffron, the world’s most expensive spice, is made from the stamens of the crocus, a lily-like purple flower. To yield just one pound of saffron, 50,000-75,000 crocus flowers are hand-harvested. Considered to originate from Greece around 3000 B.C., Saffron is presently used in a wide variety of cuisines from Italy to Spain to France to India to Iran to Turkey.
Today I went to Chinatown to buy a fresh whole chicken. While unwrapping my bag to clean it, I noticed that a butcher had tucked in the chicken head and feet to charge me for more weight. In total shock, I screamed at the freaking chicken eyes staring back at me from my kitchen counter. Aghast at the sight, I knew I needed the magic of my “silk scarf” to turn this grotesque chicken into something striking and elegant. With that thought, I am making a roasted chicken stuffed with saffron rice and portobello mushroom in my California kitchen.
To start, dissolve 1 cup of sea salt into a gallon of water and add a 3 lbs chicken to brine for 2-3 hours in the refrigerator. Separately, wash a cup of rice in cold water 4-5 times (until the water runs clear to remove the starch). Next, preheat 1 Tablespoon of 7th taste mushroom olive oil in a cast iron pot and saute the washed rice with 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and 1/4 teaspoon Spanish saffron for a couple of minutes. Subsequently, pour 1 1/4 cup water to the pot, bring it to boil and then simmer covered for 20 minutes. While the saffron rice is getting cooked, preheat some 7th taste mushroom olive oil on a fry pan and saute 1 garlic (crushed), 1 green chili (chopped) and 1/2 lb portobello mushrooms (chopped) and season with 1/4 cup Pinot Noir, pinch of rosemary, marjoram, oregano and basil and some sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Next, mix the saffron rice with sauted mushrooms in a bowl. Separately, drain the salt water out of the chicken and dry it with paper towels. Next, generously rub the chicken with 7th taste mushroom olive oil both inside and outside. Finally, stuff the chicken with the saffron rice and mushroom mixture, sew up and bake it at 350F for about 60-90 minute until the skin turns golden brown. This recipe serves about 4 servings.
Saffron, with its bitter sweet flavor with grassy notes, goes so well with chicken, mushrooms and Pinot Noir. It brings a rich, distinctive aromas, a warm, earthy taste and a radiant, mouth-watery color to this delicious stuffed chicken. The mushroom olive oil-soaked chicken skin is as crispy and flavorful as Peking Duck’s, and the tender chicken meats are packed with complex flavors. All the components of this stuffed chicken are delicately harmonized, leaving a lingering taste in my mouth. Yum. A dish like this one will turn everyday into a sparkling, festive occasion. I hope you enjoy my recipe. Happy cooking.