Rice Pilaf the Geek Way

Standing in line at Target the other day, I noticed the Food Network magazine. Apparently it comes out on a regular basis but I’ve never noticed it before. This issue is the Thanksgiving galore edition with 50 versions of mashed potatoes. Since I’m probably hosting Turkey Day again this year, I need to start working on my meal plan so I picked it up, just $4 for the issue.

I’ve folded over 3 or 4 pages for the future but decided I wanted to make Alton Brown’s rice pilaf as soon as possible. Alton Brown is my hero. His shows are the perfect combination of silly props, real science and cooking (which is, after all, a science as well as an art). I learn things on his show that can be applied far beyond the one or two recipes he’s making. It dawned on me today that I will be able to watch the new season, now that we have returned to the world of cable (TV and internet).  I hate the bill but I’ll survive, I guess.

 PA188340The ingredients in the Rice Pilaf a la Alton are nothing unusual: onions, red pepper, rice, peas. Its the method that brings out the geek. Because all we get from the magazine is the directions, I don’t know exactly why Alton chose this method. I think I’d need his book, which I sadly do not own at the present time. There is a second version of the recipe at the Food Network website but its not a 1-dish version which is much nicer, clean-up wise.

 

 

Ingredients
1 medium onion, small dice
1 red bell pepper, small dice
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups long grain rice
2 bay leaves
1 1inx2in slice of orange peel
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
pinch of saffron in 1/4 cup hot water
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 1/2 teaspoons salt plus 2 pinches
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup shelled pistachios, chopped

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 350.

In large saucier, or in my case the Everyday Pan, melt butter over medium heat (must be an oven-okay pan with a lid). Add onion and pepper with 2 pinches of salt, stir to coat. Reduce heat to low and sweat vegetables until onion is translucent but not browning, 3-5 minutes.  Return heat to medium and add rice to pan. Stir constantly for 3-4 minutes until rice is coated and nutty aroma begins to waft through the kitchen.  Add broth, saffron with water, orange peel, bay leaves and 1 1/2 tsp of salt. Bring to a boil.

Here is where it gets geek: Thoroughly wet a large kitchen towel. Turn off the heat. Sprinkle the peas over the top of the rice.  Lay towel over the pan then place the lid on. Wrap the ends of the towel up over the lid and place the whole thing in the oven.

Bake 15 minutes. Remove from oven and keep covered for an additional 15 minutes.

 

PA188346

Remove lid/towel and remove orange peel and 2 bay leaves. Transfer to serving dish, fluff with fork and sprinkle raisins and pistachios over the top. Serve family style in the center of the table.


 

I only transferred about 1/2 to a serving dish since there were just 3 of us (the recipe serves 6, generously). The other reason I didn’t fancy up the whole thing was due to some disappointing results. Mostly in the center of the pan, there were pockets of rice which were not cooked. Really not cooked- still crunchy. I am all for al dente but some of the grains were nearly raw. I believe the error lies in the amount of cooking liquid and was all my fault. I added some wine to the pan before the aromatics and broth. In the end, I shorted the broth slightly and should not have. Every bit of liquid was absorbed in the stated cooking timess so I think, but cannot be sure, that if I’d put a little more broth in, we’d have been fine.

Jon didn’t say anything and Chris didn’t seem to mind: both went back for seconds. I believe I avoided most of the really uncooked bits, in any event.

Other than that issue, the pilaf was great. Nicely flavored without overpowering or even competing with the main dish (grilled pork in a chimichurri marinade in this case). I have noticed a number of disappointed reviews around the ‘net complaining of a lack of flavor. I would call this delicate but it definitely had flavor. While I do like vampire-repelling ultimate garlic dishes, I can also appreciate something a little more subtle too.


Thanks to the dedication (obsession) of a particular fan of Good Eats*, I was able to learn the why of cooking this rice in the oven. The oven, with its highly controllable temperature, is most like a rice cooker; a rice cooker doesn’t work too well for pilafs though as you must first saute your rice and optional flavorings in a pan before adding the liquid.

On the subject of Good Eats, the new episodes are Monday nights at 8pm. Rejoice, I have cable and can watch them!! Except, oh crap, one of the (only) two shows I watch regularly is also on at 8pm Mondays. We may have to upgrade to the DVR package.

*If you go, the episode is called Power to the Pilaf, full transcipt available and even some YouTube.

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