The Celluloid Pantry: Rice Under Pressure and Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Pot holders don’t make the cook. In Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), girl-about-town Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) is seized with an uncharacteristic spurt of domesticity, changing her hair, her wardrobe, and her kitchen. Faced with the prospect of marriage to a wealthy Brazilian, Holly takes the kitchen she formerly used for little more than cocktails and cigarettes, and outfits it with new pot holders, curtains, a spice rack, and an assortment of gleaming utensils.

But the change is only skin deep. When her old neighbor Paul ‘Fred’ Varjak (George Peppard, right) stops by, Holly invites him to dinner, “I thought I’d show off and cook for you,” she says.

She slices tomatoes for the salad and uncorks a bottle of rosé. The table is set with fine china and roses. But over on the stove, the pressure cooker whistles ominously.

“Do you think it’s trying to tell us something?” asks Paul.

“I hope you like chicken and saffron rice served with chocolate sauce.* It’s an East Indian classic, my dear,” Holly says. “Three months ago, I couldn’t scramble eggs…” (“Chocolate sauce, we’re guessing, is a 60s American version of mole poblano.)

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Saffron Rice
(makes 4 servings, pressure cooker optional)

2 cups basmati rice
1 tsp. saffron threads
3 Tbsp. plus 4 cups boiling water (a little less if using a pressure cooker)
6 Tbsp. ghee or butter
1 cinnamon stick
4 whole cloves
1 cup onion, finely minced
2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom

Place the saffron in a small bowl and cover with 3 tablespoons of boiling water. Soak for 10 minutes.

Heat the butter in a heavy 3 or 4 qt. pot with a tight-fitting lid (or pressure cooker). Add the cinnamon and cloves and stir well. Add the onions.

Add the rice and stir for about 5 min. Pour in the 4 cups of boiling water, salt, and the cardamom. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add the saffron and its soaking water. Stir gently. Cover, reduce heat, and cook for 25 minutes (4 minutes at 15psi if using a pressure cooker, then remove from heat for approx. 10 minutes, or until steam dissipates). Fluff and serve hot.