Help me play with my new vanilla beans and saffron

So yesterday two packages showed up - one with the yogurt maker that my boyfriend ordered for my birthday, and the other with a package of saffron and dried porcini mushrooms that I had ordered, with 5 bonus vanilla beans and another bottle of vanilla extract.

After I get some sleep tonight, I am itching to play with my new toys. I also want to bake something, preferably autumnal, for a Halloween party tomorrow night. What would both appeal to most people, particularly billions of small children, and make good use of the vanilla beans? (I’m not set on using them for the baking project - I was originally thinking of something pumpkiny. Maybe I will just make some fabulous rice pudding just for us, or something else more straightforward that will make the vanilla bean flavor come through.)

Also, feel free to suggest recipes that showcase saffron - we’ve been cooking some Persian stews and such lately, but I am open to ideas.

I was vaguely licking my chops reading this in the SF Chronicle the other day:

Fall and saffron? How about osso bucco with risotto alla milanese? The Milanese risotto is gentle and floral (from the saffron) and quite nicely showcases the herb while melding well with the sheer awesomeness of veal shanks.

I recently made this rice pudding recipe. It was incredible. The saffron adds a cool color and flavor.

It won’t help your current itch, but if you add 3 vanilla beans to a pint of decent vodka and wait a few months, you’ll have a vanilla extract that has much more flavor than the grocery store variety. Just top off with vodka as needed, and it’ll last years.

That should be “ossobuco.”

That does look fabulous, though I don’t know whether it would be good finger food for a Halloween sweet table with half a billion toddlers. I might have to try it some other time, though - maybe Thanksgiving?

By the way, the place I ordered the stuff from is in your neck of the woods, and I know your feelings about mushrooms. The prices are pretty fabulous - remind me to let you know how the stuff comes out, but the vanilla beans are currently scenting the living room most delightfully, and I haven’t even opened the bag yet.

Where do you buy veal shanks? I used to buy them from a place in Skokie that’s now closed, and haven’t found a good source since (lamb shanks, yes - veal shanks, no). I’ve been wanting to make ossobucco for a while now.

I’ve already got a batch of vanilla vodka going, made from the last batch of vanilla beans that I bought at Trader Joe’s. It’s almost gone, though, so time for a new batch! (I already have a ton of vanilla extract - a co-worker brought me a liter bottle back from Mexico a few years ago, and I’ve still got nearly half left.)

My grocery shopping list for this weekend is looking rather Vikingesque so far - meat, vodka, butter.

Paulina Market has them, and I think Peoria Packing has them as well. You might have to ask at the counter for them. They may be frozen, as well, but veal shanks freeze very well, so I wouldn’t worry about it. Also, I’d check around some of the Polish supermarkets. I’ve seen them there, as well.

Ah, here’s a thread on Chowhound on veal shanks. Apparently, you should also find them at Whole Foods.

You can’t go wrong with creme brulee for your vanilla beans. Here’s Alton Brown’s recipe, which is easy and delicious. Don’t worry about using vanilla sugar - it comes out great with regular sugar. The episode where he makes it is up on youtube as well, which is nice for getting the technique down.

And according to Cecil, you may want to be a little careful about that Mexican vanilla extract.

For a less fancy dish, I like to make Spanish rice with saffron.

2 tsp olive oil
1 cup long-grain rice
1/4 onion, chopped
1/4 bell pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbs tomato sauce or paste
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 tsp ground cumin, or crushed cumin seeds
1/2 tsp chili powder
salt and pepper
1 small pinch saffron

In a skillet or saucepot, heat the oil over medium high and saute the peppers, onions and garlic for a minute or so. Add the rice, and stir around for another minute. Add the stock and tomato sauce, and stir. Add the seasonings, stir to mix well. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 20 minutes, or until liquid has been absorbed. It’s close to what you get in a Tex-Mex restaurant!

I’ve just gone through a fifth of Three Olive’s Vanilla Vodka and it was very good. What vodka did you use and how did you make it?

My family dumps saffron in everything-

Saffron chai

Saffron lassis

Saffron pulao (with nuts and raisins)



My mom’s Persian clients always bring her some as a Xmas gift so we’re usually stocked (hence our copious usage).

There’s this guju/marathi dessert that’s really boss, made with saffron and pistachioes. It’s called shrikhand and is basically a yoghurt pudding. You can google a recipe, there’s plenty out there.

I made saffron cardamom cookies for a Christmas cookie exchange years ago. I think they were well received. You could use a shortbread recipe.

Do not overlook the joy that is saffron in mashed potatoes. Dissolve it in a little of the warm water from boiling the potatoes, then mix it in with the butter and milk or cream.

Nothing fancy; I’m no vodka conaisseur, and I had a 1.5 liter bottle of Skyy, so I used that and dumped 3 vanilla beans in it. Let it sit for a couple of weeks, and maybe slosh it around once it a while, and it’s done. We mostly use it for mixed drinks, anyway.

Yeah, also some paella should be attempted at some point, but that kind of demands a dinner party - seems like overkill to make paella for 2 people.

Saffron yogurt pudding? Cool - I can use two new toys at once!

Thanks. I’ll give it a go. Last year I put some plums (pierced first with a knitting needle) into a quart canning jar and added vodka. Tasted decent two months later.

Pears are in season now; get a few Comice (I think - those are those conical brown ones, right?), peel them, halve them, scoop out their cores, and stew them slowly in simple syrup with a cinnamon stick and a clove. When they’re almost tender, take them off the heat, stir in a generous pinch of whole saffron and let them cool in this golden-orange liquid. It’ll stain the outside of the pears a pretty color and add a heavenly odor and flavor. Serve them room temp or chilled with a dollop of something creamy like ice cream or whipped cream.