A side dish of fragrant Basmati rice steamed atop crispy potato slices and flavored with saffron. The cooked rice is mounded onto a serving dish, and the crispy potato crust can either be placed atop the rice or sliced and arranged around it.
- 2 cups basmati rice
- 1 large or 2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and very thinly sliced
- 3 ounces butter, clarified and kept warm
- pinch of saffron, finely ground and steeped in 2 tablespoons hot water
Fill a big pot past the halfway mark with salted water and put it over high heat, covered, just as if you were going to cook spaghetti. Put the rice in a bowl and rinse with cold water, then drain in a sieve. Repeat. Once the water is rapidly boiling, add the rice, stirring.
Boil rapidly for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the rice is tender on the outside but retains a little spine of crunchiness within. Instantly drain the rice into a sieve, then rinse very briefly with warm water. Allow to continue to drain and dry while you attend to the next step.
Return the pot to the stove over medium heat. Add about ⅔ of the butter, coating the bottom and sides. Arrange the potato slices in a single layer, after flipping them around to coat in butter. Sprinkle some salt over the potatoes. Meanwhile shake the last water from the par-cooked rice and mound it up on the potatoes without messing them up. Smooth out the rice and drizzle the saffron water over the top, along with the remaining butter. Cover tightly, wrapping the lid in a kitchen towel to act as a gasket and absorb steam. Cook thus for 10 minutes.
Turn the heat to its lowest setting, and continue to cook for 35 to 40 minutes. (A heat diffuser comes in handy during the second half of this period.) When all else is in readiness, overturn the rice carefully yet decisively on a heated platter, prying out and rearranging any recalcitrant potato slices. Serve instantly.