Sunday, December 23, 2007

Saffron Rice

When a stringy orange spice only comes in tiny baggies stored behind the register counter (except for customers who order an ounce at a time for sixty dollars), I naturally want to put it in everything I cook, or perhaps, like Cleopatra, bathe in it. Saffron is, after all, approximately as expensive as a certain other celebrated herb and probably claims the highest value density of anything I own. But why shouldn't it? It’s got to be magic: as the stamen of a certain crocus flower, it’s nothing but concentrated virility, the pigment for both prostitutes and monks.

So here is a recipe from W. Crawford’s cookbook, adapted by the fallibility of my memory:

Heat 1/2 c. milk gently. When hot, remove from the heat and add a pinch of saffron (rub it between your fingers to help it dissolve). You should pinch your saffron as tightly as you have to pinch your pennies, but keep in mind that largesse is sweet and stinge is singe; there’s no sense in ruining a fine thing by diluting it. Swish the saffron threads around so they get all coated and diffuse their pigments and sweet tang.

Heat a skillet with 1/4 c. ghee (or butter or other fat) and add 4 cinnamon sticks, a pinch of whole cloves, some cardamom, and a few peppercorns. Remove from the heat when the spices are fragrant. The recipe tells you to throw 2 c. rice, 2.5 c. water, 1 tsp. salt, and the saffron milk in a rice cooker and turn it on. You can also cook it the normal way (bring the water to a boil, add everything else, reduce heat, and simmer till done). Extra liquid is no problem, as saffron rice is pleasant when a little on the creamy side.

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