It’s always a challenge to find interesting side dishes that compliment your main dish that isn’t “tired” from over-serving. While rice alone is a great side dish that many love, this Savory Cayenne Saffron Infused Rice Pilaf is a great option that has a unique flavor and texture.
The Difference Between Rice And Rice Pilaf
Traditionally, rice is cooked in boiling water without seasonings. Rice Pilaf, however, is first sautéed with herbs or vegetables with some fat to impart deep flavors. Then the combination is cooked in broth to create seasoned rice with more textured with defined rice grain.
What Is Saffron And Why Is It Expensive?
Saffron is a pricy spice that comes to us from a purple flower that only blooms for 1 to 3 weeks per year called the saffron crocus. This flower is actually very finicky and must be hand-picked each year.
The reason it’s so expensive, besides the labor-intensive harvest, is that it takes about 150 flowers to make just one simple gram of saffron. You should note that a little bit of saffron seasoning provides a great deal of flavor. Saffron also provides a beautiful yellow golden color to your dish. As a rule, buy the very best you can afford.
Savory Cayenne Saffron Rice Pilaf Ingredients
- Olive oil
- Butter, unsalted
- Long white rice
- Medium onion, diced finely
- Chicken broth
- Teaspoon salt
- Pinch of saffron
- Cayenne pepper
How I Make Savory Cayenne Saffron Rice Pilaf
First, pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Then locate a 13 x 9 glass baking dish and place it on a baking sheet. The baking sheet will make sure to catch any potential spills that may occur. Lastly, measure a piece of aluminum foil to cover the baking dish at a later time and set it aside. Now we’re ready to start!
Take the butter and olive oil and heat it in a frying pan on top of the stove. When warm, add the finely diced onion and sautee until soft and translucent. To this mixture, add both cups of the white rice and continue stirring on low heat until the rice turns a golden brown. Then add it to the awaiting baking dish.
In a separate saucepan, add the chicken broth, salt, cayenne pepper, and saffron. Take this spiced broth to a good simmer for about 5 minutes. Then stir the spiced broth into the rice and onion mixture in the baking pan.
Next, cover the baking pan with aluminum foil and place it in the hot oven on the middle rack for best results. Now cook covered for 35 minutes. You’ll want to carefully remove the baking pan and let it sit atop the stove for an additional 10 minutes of cooking time COVERED. Don’t peek! You’ll let the steam out of the pan.
When the 10 minutes is up, gently remove the aluminum foil and fluff the rice with a fork.
Tips & Tricks
- Do not use a wooden utensil with the saffron as it will stain it and absorb some of the saffron.
- Do not rush the browning of the rice process. In order for the texture to develop, you really need to brown the rice to a beautiful golden brown, not burnt color.
- Don’t peek when you remove the pan from the oven! Leave it covered, or you will lose the steam that has been built up in the pan, and the rice will not continue to cook for those 10 minutes.
- Feel free to add more cayenne pepper to give the pilaf more heat, but try to avoid getting too heavy-handed with the saffron. Saffron has a sweet, almost floral taste to it, and too much can ruin a dish.
- DO NOT BUY cheap saffron. It will taste bitter or give off a metallic or plastic flavor. You only need very small amounts in most recipes, so the jar does last you a long while. Omit the saffron before you make a choice to buy a cheaper version.
If you are looking for another side dish option, take a look at my flavorful Cheesy Parmesan Orzo Side Dish You Will Love or even the Sweet Yet Savory Caramelized Carrots recipe! Both of these options are unique and favorable.
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