Reprinted with permission from Cucina Ebraica: Flavors of the Italian Jewish Kitchen (Chronicle Books).
The classic Italian Jewish Friday night rice dish is a simple saffron–flavored rice that recalls the classic risotto alla milanese. Some cooks make it in the manner of a risotto, adding broth in increments. Others prepare it as a pilaf, adding all the liquid at once and cooking it, covered, on top of the stove.
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3/4 cup grapes, or golden raisins plumped in white wine for 30 minutes
1/4 teaspoon chopped saffron threads, infused in 2 Tablespoons hot broth
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
3 Tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
5-6 cups chicken or beef broth, or part water and part broth
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons olive oil or rendered chicken fat
Pour the broth (or water and broth) into a saucepan and bring to a simmer; adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer.
Warm the olive oil or chicken fat in a large deep sautee pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and parsley and sautee for a few minutes until softened. Add the rice and stir until opaque, about three minutes. Add a ladleful (about one cup) of the simmering broth and stir for three to four minutes until the liquid is absorbed.
Reduce the heat and continue to add broth a ladleful at a time, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding the next, until the rice kernels are al dente in the center and creamy on the outside, 18 to 20 minutes in all. Add the saffron and its broth about halfway through, and add the grapes or raisins during the last addition of broth, if using.
Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and transfer to a warmed serving dish. Serve immediately.