Saffron pumps up chicken

October 03, 2007|By Jill Wendholt Silva | Jill Wendholt Silva,McClatchy-Tribune

Sure, a boneless, skinless chicken breast is an economical and lean protein source. But it can also be boring!

What to do? To paraphrase Emeril: Kick it up a pinch!

Any blend of seasonings will do the trick - French, Cajun or Indian-inspired, as is the case with this recipe for Saffron Chicken With Fennel Seeds.

Any chef will tell you that fat carries flavor. So the key to low-fat cooking - bam! - is to pump up the flavor.

Adding exotic spices can be a great way to add flavor, color and texture. Saffron, for instance, is a deep russet-colored threadlike spice that comes from the saffron crocus. Because it is hand-harvested, saffron is the world's most expensive spice. Most recipes use saffron in small amounts to add a rich, vibrant yellow-orange color and a distinctive, pungent aroma.

Saffron pairs nicely with fennel seeds. They look similar to cumin but have a slight licorice flavor.

It's important to be sure your spices are fresh. In most cases, spices do not keep more than six months.

Shopping tip: This recipe was tested with Spice Island brand saffron. If you can't find saffron threads at your supermarket, try a specialty store that sells spices. After testing the recipe with threads and powdered saffron, our testers preferred threads. If you use powder, figure 1/2 teaspoon threads equals 1/4 teaspoon powdered.

Saffron Chicken With Fennel Seeds

Makes 4 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 -inch pieces

salt and pepper, to taste

1 cup dry white wine

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon fennel seeds

1/2 teaspoon saffron threads

1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

2 cups hot cooked rice

Heat olive oil in large skillet. Add chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, just until brown. Season with salt and pepper. Add wine, garlic, fennel seeds and saffron.

Reduce heat to low and simmer 8 to 10 minutes or until liquid has reduced by two-thirds. Stir in parsley just before serving. Serve chicken over rice.

Per serving (with 1/2 cup rice): 324 calories, 5 grams total fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 66 milligrams cholesterol, 28 grams carbohydrate, 29 grams protein, 82 milligrams sodium, 1 gram fiber

Nutrition analysis provided by The Kansas City Star.

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