816 Diversions

Saffron chicken pumps up the flavor in low-fat recipe

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

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 The Star’s Saffron Chicken With Fennel Seeds.

Any chef will tell you 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. Luckily, 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.

So march to the kitchen and throw out the remnants of the spices you got for a wedding present 25 years ago. “If you open a jar and can’t smell it, why are you putting it in your food?” asks Star recipe tester Kathryn Moore.

When it comes to spices, side-by-side taste test comparisons show that generic and store brands often don’t stand up to the flavor and aroma of premium brands. So here’s a suggestion: If saffron seems expensive (about $12 a jar at one local supermarket), buy the best, then split it with a friend or family member.

You’ll be glad you did.

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, The Star’s 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 (17 percent from fat), 5 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), 66 milligrams cholesterol, 28 grams carbohydrates, 29 grams protein, 82 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.

Recipe developed for The Star by professional home economists Kathryn Moore and Roxanne Wyss.