What: Saffron Rice, p.100
Where: The Art of Simple Food
Who: Alice Waters
The preparation for this dish is truly simple. But the flavor yield is greater than the sum of its parts. Gently exotic and complex, this rice pairs beautifully with the Chicken Legs Braised with Tomatoes, Onions, and Garlic. And, as is true with soup, the flavor magnifies with age, so leftovers are wonderfully inviting.
This recipe is actually filed under the title “Plain Rice: Absorption Method Two” with Waters’ Variation of “Add 1/8 teaspoon saffron with the butter.” I used basmati rice, and I believe this is an important choice. Plain white rice is rather flavorless, but basmati has a nutty (almost popcorn) fragrance that pairs beautifully with the floral saffron.
I increased the amount of saffron to 1/4 teaspoon. Waters calls for adding the saffron to the rice with the butter right before cooking, but I added it into the 30-minute soaking liquid before cooking to infuse even the cooking water.
Waters’ cooking method worked fabulously for truly fluffy rice. It starts with washing the rice in “a few changes of water” (until the liquid runs clear), then soaking the rice in a heavy saucepan with 2 cups of water and a “pinch” of salt (I used a generous pinch, and added the saffron here). A Tablespoon of butter is then added to the pot, the water is brought to a boil, and the rice is cooked uncovered until the surface of the rice is “covered with steam holes.” The lid is then affixed, the heat brought low, and the rice cooked for 7 minutes. The pan is finally removed from the heat and brought to stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Perfect flavor, perfect fluff.