Lidia Bastianich's Rice and Potato Soup with Parmigiano Rind
Regina Schrambling's Grits with Deviled Shiitakes

Mark Bittman's Stuck-Pot Rice with Potato Crust


When it comes to Mark Bittman's recipes, I'm beginning to feel like that girl (you know) whose boyfriend is just not that in to her. At first Mark was just this really cute guy, you know? With an adorable nickname and lots of friends and whatever. Then I got to know him a little better and realized that there wasn't all that much there behind his goofy regular-guy facade. But, wham!, with one recipe he totally got me. It was like the best first date ever. And now, I've waited by the phone for him to call for days and when I finally got up the nerve to just call him because who ever got what they wanted from moping around and feeling sorry for themselves, he acted like a jerk and totally blew me off, and now I'm sitting here with this enormous pot of leftovers and I just want to get drunk and forget I ever met him. Sob.

After waxing rhapsodic about the Minimalist and his Stuck-Pot Rice, I couldn't wait to try the next recipe in that article. To eat alongside breaded-and-mustarded chicken courtesy of Gary Danko (and which probably would have been tastier if I hadn't bought the shrink-wrapped chicken at D'Agostino's, even if it was Bell & Evans and organic and whatever - it still tasted like foulness incarnate), I decided to make the version of stuck-pot rice that included saffron, fennel and sliced potatoes. Yes, I seem to be on some kind of rice-and-potato kick. I. Don't. Know. How. To. Kick. The. Starch. Fixation.

It all started quite innocently, with the parboiling of the rice and the sauteeing of the fennel. But of course things got hairy. I was supposed to mix together saffron and oil, then dump this mixture with water into the pan. Hmm. The logic of this is still a mystery to me. Because the saffron doesn't really have a chance to soak in the water and get all yellow and fragrant - it just sits limply in its oil bath while the water separates meekly and it all sort of boils together strangely while you lay potato slices on top. Why doesn't the saffron first get immersed in hot water, and then get mixed with the rice? Wouldn't that make the rice prettier and tastier? Be honest, Mark. I just want an honest answer.

I layered the rice and fennel, which seemed okay at the time, but 45 minutes later, when we were ready to eat, the combination of the soggy fennel (because it was soggy by then, after having been sauteed and steamed, after all) and the bland rice (would it kill you, Mark, to specify the amount of salt needed? Really, kill you? Because it'd be nice, at least for me, to know how much I'm supposed to put in there instead of having to read your mind and potentially get it wrong, which is exactly what happened on Saturday night and I'm sick of it. Sick of it, I tell you!), and the layer of burned potatoes that weren't appetizingly crunchy like the rice from two weeks ago, but were weird-tasting and flabby, made for quite the unpleasant dining experience. And have you (I'm talking to you, kind reader) ever tasted burnt saffron? It's not something I look forward to doing again.

Ben and I choked down our meal gamely while I cursed ever having forgiven Mark's trespasses. We made up for that sad experience by having brunch at Cookshop on Sunday - replete with spicy gingerbread beignets and piping hot frittatas and the loveliest smooth green teapots that were perfect hand-warmers on such a dreary day. But still, I feel so stupid for having given Mark yet another chance. So, Mark? Stop calling, stop writing. Forget we ever met. We are soooo over.