Monday, April 23, 2007

Saffron Rice with Currants and Almonds – Is this a Pilaf? Who cares?

On this busy Monday morning, I didn’t have the time or energy to go surfing around the web gathering extensive info on what makes a rice dish a Pilaf. Early translations of “pilaf” simply refers to rice, or other grains, being cooked in oil and then in stock. As far as I’m concerned, if you put “stuff” in rice (veggies, fruits, nuts, meat, etc.) then you can call it a Pilaf, and keep a straight face. Sometime Pilaf is just a restaurant term used to make the rice sound fancier on the menu. I’ve had “Pilaf” that looked just like plain rice to me. I think most chefs would say the difference is whether the rice is cooked in a stock, or flavored broth, verses plain water…whatever.

I’m calling this “Saffron Rice with Currants and Almonds,” and there nothing anyone can do about it. Now, as I say in the video recipe, this is the very easy, very fast version. In the professional kitchen, a stock would be made with sautéed onions and the saffron, to infuse the maximum amount of color and flavor. In this version I just used my
basic basmati rice technique and after coating the rice with the oil, I just throw everything in at once. It worked. Now, I will admit the professional method described above does make a better product, but many home cooks when faced with the extra steps of dicing onions and infusing stocks, will simply make plain rice and eat thier chicken legs. So, I decided to show a compromised version that should make everyone happy (is that possible?).

If you haven’t seen it, be sure to check out the
Basmati Rice video recipe clip which will make this recipe easier to understand. By the way, there is NO substitute for saffron, so don’t ask. If you can’t find it and/or afford it (warning: its crazy expensive) then just make the recipe without it. If you’re just looking for a nice yellow color you could throw in some turmeric. Enjoy!

2 cups basmati rice
3 cups cold water

2 tbl dried currants
1/3 cup slivered almonds
1 tsp salt
1 tbl butter
pinch of saffron
2 tbl olive oil


maggie said...

I just wanted to say that if anyone has a Trader Joe's available to them, Saffron is quite inexpensive there, even more shockingly than their other spices. This might be my first chance to use my new jar!

Anonymous said...

haha, sucker now i can see what you look like! ;) Weird, your voice seems to be contrary to for appearance.?

Chef John said...

I assume you mean my voice would lead you to believe that i could'nt possibly be that good looking. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Love love love it! chef john, you rock! i make this with pistachios and barberries to give it a more persian twist and it works really well.

chin chin!

Saffron spices said...

I really like your saffron spice dish, though anything with saffron generally tastes nice.

keep up the work

Crow Calling Woman said...

It super easy to grow your own saffron. I've been growing the crocus saffron flowers for several years now in the winter. They do not tolerate hi heat, & they come from a cooler region so I grow them over the winter (Wisconsin winters are plenty cold & long). You can search online for retailers of the saffron crocus bulbs (Make sure they are labeled as SAFFRON CROCUS - C. sativus, otherwise they are not). They are only available starting in September for purchase. The smaller bulbs are cheaper, but will more than likely not produce flowers (from which the saffron comes) until the second or third year. However, the reproduce profusely! I started with a dozen medium bulbs last year (planted in a well draining soil mix in a window box that) & ended up with several dozen more baby bulbs. It's a nice mood enhancer too in the middle of winter to see the beautiful purple flowers. Why spend so much money to buy the saffron when they are simple & easy to grow!! Do an internet search, that's how I learned how to grow mine. :)

Anna said...

Ok, last post for the night, it's late...I've been reading your site profusely for the last two hours, yikes! *consider that a compliment! :)

Quick question: How to make this recipe with chicken/meat cooked with the rice? I've tried this many times and it always comes out too mushy(is that a word?). (*I use 3pcs chicken, 1cp basmati, 2cps water, spices, onion, tomato puree) What am I doing wrong?

Thank you, I really enjoy your site!

Chef John said...

Thanks!! I wish I could help, but there is just no way I can answer that question without watching you make it. Also, I've never tried this recipe with chicken cooked into it. May I suggest just cooking the chicken separately, perfectly, and just adding it to the rice at the end.

Anna said...

I've made this rice twice now. The first time was a disaster. I added too much water. (1cup basmati, 2cups h2o) Also the saffron was apparently old and colored my rice a very pale orangeish/pinkish color, not yellow...very strange. So people be warned: saffron will lose it's color, so use it quickly! (my saffron was probably a few months old but who knows how long it was in the shop, there was no expiry date.) Laugh if you must but I didn't know that! :)

So in spite of my first failed attempt, I decided to try again today and it came out kids loved it! I served it with a lamb vegetable stew. They didn't like the stew so much but at least they ate the yummy rice! :)

Not sure if that was the best combo but it was healthy and filling, what else can you ask for, right?

Next time I will make your saffron rice with your Pomegranate chicken and use white rice to serve with my lamb stew. Thanks again.

1Bigg_ER said...

Buying Saffron just seems like a drug deal.
So no need to steep the Saffron before use chef John?

1Bigg_ER said...

I tried this with Maharajah Curry powder. Fantastic, it has some saffron in it too.