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~ Rethink Plain Rice -- Make a Flavorful Pilaf Instead ~

6a0120a8551282970b025d9b32cca6200cWhen I was growing up, in a saucepan, my mom would lightly-toast a cup or two of white rice in a few pats of melted butter.  In went some diced onion, carrot. celery, salt and pepper.  When the veggies began to soften, steaming hot chicken or vegetable stock went in, the lid went on the pot, then, the mixture gently simmered until the rice was cooked.  After 20-25 minutes, and a quick "fluff", voila:  our rice side-dish was served.  Technically, our rice pilaf was served.

That's my experience with pilaf, also referred to as pilau in many culinary circles.  Pilaf is an ancient dish dating back to the 5th Century BCE (before common era), likely in the Middle East, although some credit the Persian Empire with its creation.  Due to extensive trading with the Persians, the dish was popularized in the Mediterranean and parts of Eastern Europe.  Pilaf is recognized as a method of cooking, and, while mostly associated with rice, it's worth mention that it can be prepared as a side-dish using almost any grain -- as long as the rice or grain is simmered in seasoned stock instead of plain water.  If additional ingredients are stirred into it (beef, poultry or pork), pilaf can be served as a hearty one-plate or bowl main-dish too.

My mom's all-purpose recipe for this classic side-dish:

6a0120a8551282970b025d9b32c164200c2  cups extra-long-grain white rice (14 ounces), long-grain white rice may be substituted

4  tablespoons salted butter or vegetable oil, or a combination of both

1/2  cup each: diced yellow or sweet onion, carrot and celery

4  cups unsalted beef, chicken, seafood or vegetable stock, selected to complement the main-dish being served, heated to steaming (on the stovetop or in the microwave)

2  whole bay leaves

2  teaspoons sea salt

1  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

fresh parsley sprigs, for garnish

IMG_9033 IMG_9033 IMG_9033 IMG_9033 IMG_9047 IMG_9047 IMG_9047~Step 1.  Over low heat, melt butter in a 3-quart saucepan, preferably a saucepan with a glass (see-through) lid. Add the rice and increase heat to medium- medium-high.  Stirring constantly, very-lightly-toast the rice, about 3-4 minutes.  Add the diced onion, celery and carrot.  Stirring constantly, cook until vegetables begin to soften (and rice toasts a bit more), about 2-3 additional minutes.

IMG_9060 IMG_9060 IMG_9060 IMG_9060 IMG_9072 IMG_9072 IMG_9072~Step 2.  While the rice is toasting and vegetables are softening, heat stock, bay leaves, sea salt and black pepper to steaming -- I do this in the microwave, in about 2 minutes.  Add the seasoned stock to the saucepan.  Give the mixture a thorough stir and bring to a simmer.  Once simmering, cover the saucepan and lower the heat to a gentle, steady simmer.  Continue to cook, covered and without opening the lid, until rice has absorbed the liquid, is cooked al dente, and, small holes appear across the surface of the pilaf, about 15 minutes.  Turn the heat off and allow to rest, covered, 10 additional minutes. Open (remove) the lid and use a fork to rake through the rice to fluff and separate the grains.

Rethink plain rice -- make mom's flavorful piaf instead:

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4e8662c200dRethink Plain Rice -- Make a Flavorful Pilaf Instead:  Recipe yields 8 cups/4-6 servings.

Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; 3-quart saucepan w/lid (preferably a glass lid), large spoon; fork

6a0120a8551282970b025d9b32d142200cCook's Note: A carefully-chosen side-dish really can turn an ordinary meal into an extraordinary one. Recipes for side-dishes aren't the most exciting thing to write home about, but, I can say with certainty that home cooks routinely conduct searches that clearly inquire: "What to serve with (meat, poultry, fish, seafood, etc.)?"  That said, it's not uncommon to have narrower searches include the word(s) "vegetable" or "starch", and/or, "quick" or "easy" -- it seems that people don't like to spend a lot of time hovering over recipes for complicated side-dishes.  In my opinion, while pilaf is great as a side to beef, poultry or pork, when it comes to seafood, I like lighter fare.  Example:  my recipe for ~ Fluffy Lemon & Pepper Rice for Fish &/or Seafood ~

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)


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