Saffron Sauce with Chicken & Asparagus

A while back, I had dogeared this recipe from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything that used a cream based saffron sauce with white fish. A few weeks ago, I had decided to throw Mr. Bittman’s wise sauce/fish pairing suggestion aside; I took a chance and made this dish using salmon. I am the first to admit that it simply wasn’t a success. This saffron sauce needs to be the star of the show, and salmon rarely wants to share the spotlight. As with almost any other time you that put two divas in the same show together, there was very little working together.

The next day for our lunches,  I had made some chicken and rice and upon seeing my poor, neglected saffron sauce in the fridge – I suddenly became overcome with regret at my fish hubris. In that moment, I decided that what this bootleg bento box needed was a dollop of bright yellow saffron. I have to say, I definitely ate well for lunch that day.

We gave the sauce another go, this time with chicken and asparagus. This has definitely become a quick and easy dinner dish for the rest of our time in Spain.

For the sauce, I stayed pretty true to the recipe from the book, only substituting in red onion for shallots and adding a touch of crushed red pepper.

What you’ll need:


  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 1 red onion, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. saffron threads
  • 1/2  lemon, juiced
  • Cayenne, a pinch
  • Crushed red pepper, a pinch
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste

Chicken and Asparagus

  • 1 chicken breast
  • Olive oil, a drizzle
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 1/2 lemon
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste


  1. Preheat the oven to 375. Combine the yogurt with some salt and pepper, the cayenne, crushed red pepper and the onion. Rub the saffron between your fingers to crush it, then stir it into the yogurt mixture. Refrigerate while you prepare the rest of your meal. Before serving, add the lemon juice from 1/2 the lemon, then taste and adjust the seasoning.
  2. Prep your asparagus by cutting off the bamboo- like ends and put in an ovenproof pan.
  3. Drizzle olive oil over the asparagus and squeeze the juice from the other lemon half over the asparagus. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and place in oven.  Bake for 20 minutes until ends are tender.
  4. In a frying pan over medium heat, drizzle some olive oil.
  5. While oil is heating, sprinkle chicken with some salt and pepper. Add the chicken and white wine to the pan. Cover the pan and cook for 20-25 minutes until chicken is done all the way through.
  6. Once chicken and asparagus are done, place on a plate and drizzle the sauce over top.

To be frank, saffron is not the most cost prohibitive ingredient in Spain. While this dish is delicious and a go-to, it might not be worth the cost of buying saffron in places where saffron is incredibly expensive. However, if you have some left over from another dish, or are the type of person who just always has it around, than it is definitely worth a try.


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