Inspired by a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe, this rice is great because it feeds a lot of people, it’s foolproof since you cook it in the oven (which helps rice cook so much more evenly than it does on the stove top, leaving the cook calm), and you can prepare it ahead and reheat it before serving. The saffron makes it very aromatic and special (perfect for a holiday). It’s an expensive ingredient, but a little bit goes a very long way. Incidentally, the rice is delicious with or without it, and you can also add different spices when you cook the garlic and onion (whole or ground cloves, cardamom pods, and cinnamon sticks are all welcome).
SERVES 8 TO 10
½ cup [120 ml] olive oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
2½ cups [500 g] long-grain white rice (preferably basmati)
1 Tbsp kosher salt, plus more as needed
4 cups [960 ml] plus 3 Tbsp boiling water
3 large pinches of saffron threads
Preheat your oven to 425°F [220°C].
In a large, heavy, oven-safe pot over medium-low heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic and onion and cook, stirring now and then, until the vegetables sizzle and soften, about 8 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the rice and salt and stir everything together.
Pour in 4 cups [960 ml] of the boiling water and stir well to combine. Cover the pot tightly and place in the oven. Bake until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is cooked through, about 25 minutes (the center of the rice might be cooked less than the rice around it, but it will rest in just a moment and all of the grains will turn out tender … trust me).
While the rice is cooking, put the saffron into a small bowl and add the remaining 3 Tbsp boiling water. When the rice is ready, uncover it and spoon the reserved saffron and its liquid evenly over the top. Re-cover the pot and let the rice sit for at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour before serving.
Uncover the rice, fluff with a fork or a spoon, and stir well to incorporate the saffron. Taste and season with more salt if needed. Serve warm. If you want to cook the rice more than an hour ahead of serving, rewarm it in the pot in a 250°F [120°C] oven, stirring now and then, until heated through, about 15 minutes from room temperature or 30 minutes if cold from the refrigerator.
It’s Me Again
This is for your leftover rice. Halve bell peppers lengthwise and remove the seeds and ribs (you can leave the stems on if you like, as they’re attractive). Arrange them, hollow-side up, in a single layer in a roasting pan. Mix whatever leftover rice you have with a generous amount of crumbled feta cheese and some chopped fresh herbs (a lot of Italian parsley is simple and nice). Fill the pepper halves with the rice and dot the tops with butter and/or drizzle with olive oil. Add about ½ cup [120 ml] water or chicken stock to the roasting pan and place in a 350°F [180°C] oven. Roast until the peppers are soft and the top of the rice is a little bit browned, about 25 minutes.
Serve warm or at room temperature. These are especially good topped with a dollop of plain yogurt. If you don’t want the peppers to be vegetarian, you can add some crumbled cooked sausage meat or ground meat (beef, turkey, and lamb all work well) to the rice mixture before filling the peppers.
CHEESY RICE FRITTERS
For every large handful of leftover rice, mix together with a handful of grated Cheddar cheese, a beaten egg, and 2 Tbsp of all-purpose flour. Cook spoonfuls in a lightly oiled skillet until browned and crisp on both sides. Sprinkle with salt and serve hot. These are great with drinks or topped with eggs for breakfast (almost like hash browns).
Reprinted from Now & Again by Julia Turshen with permission by Chronicle Books, 2018