This unusual rice pilaf makes a great side dish for baked chicken or grilled meat. The combination of sweet/savory and tart/buttery flavors is delicious. I imagine it would even be good using a prepared saffron rice mix (steamed, not boiled as this recipe calls for) in a pinch. But what I like about making your own saffron rice is that the flavor is subtle, and you avoid the MSG lurking in packaged products.
In any case, try this! It’s such a nice twist.
(Adapted from Food & Wine)
-1 c. basmati rice
-3 Tbsp. butter
-1 tsp. olive oil
-1/4 c. dried sour cherries, raisins, or dried cranberries (2 ounces)
-2 tsp. sugar
-1/3 c. sliced or slivered almonds
-1/4 tsp. saffron
-salt and pepper, to taste
1. Toast the almonds in a dry skillet on medium heat, stirring to prevent burning. Once brown, immediately remove almonds to a bowl.
2. Preheat the oven to 375F. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the rice and cook until almost tender, between 8 and 10 minutes. Test periodically to ensure the rice retains a slight “al dente” bite.
3. Drain rice in a colander and shake to remove excess water. In a small bowl, dissolve the saffron in 1 tablespoon of hot water. Return the rice to the saucepan and stir in the saffron water. Season with salt and (ideally white) pepper.
4. In a small skillet on low heat, melt the butter and olive oil with the dried sour cherries and sugar, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved. Spoon half of the rice into a buttered gratin dish. Top with half of the sour cherries and slivered almond mix. Cover with the remaining rice and the remaining sour cherries and almonds. Drizzle any remaining butter over top.
5. Cover with foil and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the rice is tender. Fluff with a fork, taste for seasoning, and drizzle tad more olive oil over before serving.