Pilaf refers to a specific method for preparing rice or other grains like quinoa, barley, and wild rice. It is not only easy, but incredibly adaptable. Once you understand and practice the method a few times, you’ll be able to transform an ordinary grain into a perfect accompaniment to any meal.
Step 1: Cook the aromatic vegetables
Try: onions, shallots, leeks, carrots, celery, mushrooms or garlic…
Heat a small amount of extra-virgin olive oil in a medium saucepan (that is oven-proof and has a tight fitting lid). Once the oil is warm, add your aromatics. Sauté until the vegetables are tender and translucent.
Step 2: Add any ground or whole spices
Try: curry powder, cinnamon sticks, cloves, turmeric, red pepper flakes…
Add the ground or whole spices, sauté for 30-40 seconds. I call this “waking up the flavors of the spice”.
Step 3: Parch the grain
This step toasts the grains, which gives them a wonderful fluffy texture and provides a nutty flavor.
Add the grain and sauté, stirring frequently, until the individual grains are coated with oil and heated through, about 30-40 seconds. There might be a subtle color change and slight toasted aroma.
Step 4: Add the liquid
Try: water, mushroom broth, chicken broth, coconut milk, tomato juice…
Add the liquid and bring to a simmer, stirring the grains to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Step 5: Add any herbs
Try: bay leaves, thyme sprigs, parsley or cilantro….
Dried or fresh, add the herbs to the simmering liquid.
Step 6: Cover the pot and walk away (or finish cooking the rest of the meal)
Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and turn the heat down very low or place the pilaf in a 350°F oven until the grain is tender. I say walk away because it’s important to keep the lid on tight. Don’t peak because steam will escape and cause the grain to not cook properly.
Step 7: Allow the grain to rest
For the best texture, let the pilaf rest out of the oven or off the heat, still covered, for 5-10 minutes. Then use a fork and gently separate and fluff the grains and add any final ingredients or garnishes just before serving.
Want some recipes to get started? Try these from Fine Cooking, by clicking here.