Monday, October 18, 2010

Proper Rice Pilaf

Rice is an irreplaceable ingredient/dish for many cuisines around the world. And here's a real staple in Turkish cuisine: Rice Pilaf.
One of my most pleasant childhood memories was staying over at my grandma's home together with the other grandkids and eating rice pilaf (with yogurt) for almost all the meals. Not because this was the only food grandma cooked, but because she made a delicious rice pilaf, this was all we wanted to eat, and we called it "Sugar Pilaf"...
My father-in-law used to say: "If a woman can cook rice pilaf well, she can also cook other dishes well", which actually meant that it is not as simple as it seems: A proper rice pilaf needs a proper recipe. Well, I'm still a work in progress regarding a lot of other dishes, but I cook rice pilaf almost every week which is very usual in a Turkish household.

Ingredients: (Serves 6)

  • 1 3/4 cups medium grain rice, picked
  • 4 oz. butter (1 stick)
  • 3 cups hot chicken/beef/vegetable stock
  • Salt


  • Put the rice in a bowl and cover with warm (not hot or cold!) water and let it sit for half an hour. Before starting to cook the pilaf, rinse and drain the rice well (3-4 times to get rid of excess starch).
  • In a pan or shallow pot (which has a lid) melt the butter over medium-high heat, add the rice and saute for 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  • Add the hot stock, stir, and let the rice boil in the stock for another 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently (the rice will absorb most of the stock during that time). Taste a little bit from the stock/rice at this point and add salt if necessary. (For me personally, the salt amount of the stock is enough, so I do not add more salt.)
  • Lower the heat to low, stir the rice one last time and put the lid on. Cook the rice on low heat for 18-20 minutes. Do not open the lid during that whole time!
  • Turn off the heat and stir/fluff up the rice. Put 2-3 layers of clean paper towel (or another clean and dry kitchen towel) over the pan, cover the lid and let it sit for another 15-20 minutes, so the paper can absorb the excess steam from the pilaf.
  • Fluff up the rice pilaf once more and serve hot.

Additional notes:

  • Give a try to a dollop of plain yogurt to accompany your rice pilaf.
  • The paper towel step is important; because it helps the rice grains look and taste as separate pieces which we aim for. We do not like the rice pilaf to clump up.
  • You can also cook this rice pilaf with plain hot water, instead of stock. In that case, you will have a whiter pilaf and feel the taste of butter more. Just add salt (to your taste) when adding the hot water to rice. The rest of the recipe is the same.

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