Recipe Sunday: Highbrow/Lowbrow Spicy Saffron Chicken with Turmeric Rice

Okay, so the title of this post is a little misleading, because turmeric isn’t really “lowbrow.” But for years I’ve thought of it as “saffron coloring for the fiscally challenged.” I love to use it in rice because it makes it so bright and cheerful for pennies a batch. It’s also good for you – which makes it pretty much a win/win. Then over Christmas I was gifted with a good sized amount of saffron. Saffron! The most expensive spice in the world! I’ve been hoarding it because…well, it’s the most expensive spice in the world.

Then I decided to bust it out of the confines of the spice drawer, and have some fun with it. It wasn’t doing anyone any good by being treated as too precious to cook with.

SaffronSo, I made a spicy sauce that was loaded with flavor from saffron, cumin, green olives, parsley, cilantro smoked paprika and cayenne. And of course I had to serve it over turmeric rice, because it’s only right to “dance with the one who brung ya.”

Highbrow/Lowbrow Spicy Saffron Chicken with Turmeric Rice
Serves 4.


  • 1 teaspoon saffron
  • ½ cup of malbec (or another dry red wine)
  • 2 large boneless chicken breasts
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1 piece of stale white bread, roughly chopped
  • 1 small red onion, divided
  • 1½ cups of chicken broth
  • ¼ cup of flat-leaf parsley
  • ¼ cup of cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons of peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons of green olives
  • 1 tablespoon of hot smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons of cayenne
  • 2 teaspoons of cumin

Roughly dice half of the onion. In a large frying pan heat the olive oil until hot but not smoking. Place the bread and onion in the frying pan, and cook until the bread is slightly browned and the onion is soft.

Place the cooked bread and onion into a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the rest of the onion, saffron, wine, broth, parsley, cilantro, peanut butter, green olives, paprika, cayenne and cumin to the food processor. Blend until smooth.

In the same frying pan, add 2 more tablespoons of olive oil and the chicken. Season with salt and pepper. Cook on medium heat until the chicken is brown, appropriately 7 minutes. Flip the chicken pieces and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan, and roughly shred with 2 forks. Add the saffron sauce and shredded chicken to the pan. Cover and cook on low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Turmeric Rice

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil or unsalted butter
  • 1 cup of jasmine rice
  • 2 cups of chicken broth
  • ½ teaspoon of turmeric

In a small saucepan heat the oil or butter over medium heat. Add the rice and saute for 30 seconds. Add the broth and the turmeric. Bring to a boil and cover. Reduce heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. Turn the heat off and let the rice continue to steam for 20 minutes.

Serve with the chicken and sauce.

(Photos by Launie K.)

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