Giffen goods are a hot commodity – literally.
Giffen goods, named for the economist Sir Robert Giffen, are goods that do not respond to normal economic forces. In a normal marketplace, the price and quantity of goods situate according to the well-established supply and demand curves. And according to these economic principles, as the price of a good rises, the demand for the good at that price, falls. Think about your standard flat-screen television. At $1,200, the market for the product is understandably tepid. And for that price, you might even settle for the old tube screen. But at $400, suddenly your living room and kitchen are now boasting brand new televisions.
Giffen goods defy that logic. As the price of an inferior good rises, the demand for the product also rises. The theory goes like this: in impoverished areas or periods of extreme depression, certain commodities (like wheat or rice) are such staples and still relatively inexpensive that a household will always buy them. And as the price of the commodity rises, eliminating the ability to pay for higher-priced items like meat, the household stretches its finances by buying more of the relatively cheaper staple.
While the theory is straight forward, it’s application is less so. Potatoes during the Irish Famine were thought to be a Giffen good, but there is no hard evidence given the time frame. To date, the consumption of rice in certain rural parts of China appears to be the only empirical evidence of a Giffen good in action.
With these chive risotto cakes, it’s easy to see how rice can be such a hot commodity.
Chive Risotto Cakes
Recipe from Ina Garten’s Back to Basics.
PREP TIME: 10 minutes
DOWN TIME: 2 hours for chilling
COOK TIME: 30 minutes
YIELD: Makes 10 risotto cakes
WHAT TO GRAB:
1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
3 teaspoons Kosher salt, divided
1/2 cup non-fat Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons fresh chives, minced
1 cup grated Fontina cheese (about 4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup panko (Japanese bread flakes – I like the Trader Joe’s brand)
HOW YOU DO IT:
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium-low heat. Add two teaspoons salt and the Arborio rice. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. The grains of rice will be quite soft. Drain the rice in a sieve and run under cold water until cool. Drain well.
2. Meanwhile, whisk together the yogurt, eggs, chives, fontina, one teaspoon of salt, and the pepper in a medium bowl. Add the cooled rice and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours, and up to overnight, or until the mixture is firm.
3. When you’re ready to cook, preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Spread the panko in a shallow dish. Heat three tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Form balls of the rice mixture using a standard ice-cream scoop or a large spoon. Pat the balls into patties three inches in diameter and 3/4-inch thick. Place the patties in the panko, covering both sides.
4. Once the oil is hot, place four patties in the oil and cook, turning once, for about 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or until the risotto cakes are crisp and nicely browned. Place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and keep warm in the oven for up to 30 minutes. Continue cooking, in batches, adding oil as necessary, until all the cakes are fried. Arrange on a serving platter and serve hot!