Rice Cooked in Onions
MAKES: 4 to 6 servings
TIME: 1 hour, largely unattended
This is a great Thanksgiving dish: It’ll keep warm for a long time or can be kept hot over a very low flame (and, if it browns on the bottom, so much the better). I’ve modified it in a few ways since I first made it (with thanks to Julia Child), reducing the fat (or at least making a portion of it optional), adding saffron (for glorious color), increasing the amount of rice (and using basmati), and cooking the onions a bit longer at the beginning.
The most difficult part of the preparation lies in slicing the onions, but the food processors slicing disk was created for tasks exactly like this one: From the time you set it up to the time the onions are sliced, about 5 minutes should pass, and you will not end up in tears.
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 to 6 tablespoons butter
1 cup basmati rice
6 to 8 cups sliced onion (about 4 or 5 large)
Large pinch saffron threads (optional)
1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)
Chopped parsley leaves for garnish
Bring a saucepan of water to a boil and salt it. Meanwhile, melt 3 tablespoons butter over medium heat in a broad, deep skillet or casserole with a lid.
When the water boils, cook the rice in it, stirring occasionally, until it loses its translucence, about 5 minutes. Add the onion to the melted butter along with a large pinch of salt and some pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, just until the onion begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Drain the rice (leave it wet) and add it to the onion along with the saffron if you’re using it. Stir, turn the heat to minimum, and cover.
Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 45 minutes, or until the onion is very soft and the rice cooked through; don’t stir at all during the last 10 or 15 minutes, so that the bottom browns a bit. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then stir in the heavy cream and/or remaining butter if you like. Heat through once more, turn off the heat, and let sit for 10 minutes or so (or longer; this will retain its heat for at least 30 minutes and can be reheated gently if you like). Garnish with the parsley and serve.