Friday, November 19, 2010

My First Rice Pilaf

My mom used to make this great rice pilaf; fluffy rice with peas and tiny shrimp and ... I'm not sure what else. But I remember my dad really liked it. He and my brother had favorite things they always requested her to make: dad had his German's Chocolate Cake for his birthday and my brother had stuffed peppers. I never had anything like that. I have never had a niche, gastronomically speaking (or otherwise). I just ... love food.

Anyway, I haven't had pilaf in forever and I decided to try some tonight with my herbed chicken. I started some chicken (boneless, skinless) in the oven after seasoning it: Kosher salt, freshly cracked pepper, (a tiny dusting of) granulated garlic, paprika and parsley with a drizzle of olive oil on top.

I guess I never thought about the 'trick' for keeping the grains of rice from gumming together in pilaf like they tend to when you just boil rice on the stove. Apparently it just takes a little time in the hot pan before adding the liquid (I used chicken broth) to sort of toast the grains. I don't make Rice-A-Roni all that often so this step isn't top of mind when it comes to preparing a rice dish. The rice turned out wonderfully: individual, fluffy grains and not a hint of gum! I am very pleased with my effort!

To start, I melted 2 tablespoons of butter and added 1/2 an onion, diced, to a warm pan over medium heat; then I added 2 ribs of diced celery and let them soften for a couple minutes. I poured in 1-1/3 cups of white rice (though I'm sure brown or Jasmine would be just as good) and let it toast for about 2 minutes, stirring to make sure all the rice had time at the bottom of the pot. Add the broth (2-1/2 cups) and 1/4 cup of golden raisins (mmm); let it steam with a lid on til all the broth is absorbed. I stirred it just a couple times because I always worry my rice is going to stick. When I boil rice the usual way, I sometimes add a drizzle of olive oil to the water which seems to help. While the rice cooked, I toasted about 1/4 cup of pine nuts in a dry saute pan (not the non-stick variety) over low heat for just a few minutes and then set them aside. Once the rice is done, add the pine nuts and a handful of course-chopped basil (fresh) and some salt and pepper. It made the perfect accompaniment to my baked chicken.

Do you know of a great pilaf? I'm always up for a new recipe. =)

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