Why It Works
- Rinsing the rice and soaking it briefly in sizzling water helps make sure that the rice grains keep separate and cook dinner evenly.
- Toasting the pasta in butter (which itself toasts within the course of) lends the pilaf an underlying nutty taste.
- Overlaying the pot with a clear dish towel as soon as the rice has absorbed the liquid helps to even out its texture, leaving it moist and fluffy, however not moist.
Rice pilaf—lengthy grain rice and a handful of thready, busted-up pasta, toasted in butter, cooked with rooster inventory—is completely basic to diasporic Armenian delicacies. “Diasporic” is a vital qualifier, since, as with most issues having to do with Armenian tradition and historical past, it is sophisticated. Rice wasn’t generally eaten in Jap Armenia, the nation now generally known as the Armenian Republic. However for folks like me, whose ancestors emigrated from Western Armenia, this is what I imply once I say rice pilaf is key: At my household’s gatherings, it doesn’t matter what’s on the menu—a Thanksgiving meal, for instance—and regardless of how a lot meals has already been ready—a 22-pound roast turkey and piles of butter-laden mashed potatoes, say—my mom will ask, “Ought to I make pilaf?” Typically we will speak her out of including pilaf to the already full desk, generally not, however all of us perceive the impulse: To many Armenians, a meal of any variety simply doesn’t appear full with out it.
Most non-Armenian Individuals at the moment are accustomed to this fashion of rice pilaf because of Rice-a-Roni, the “San Francisco Deal with,” that boxed aspect dish that launched rice consuming to the States within the 1950’s. (The story behind how an Italian-American pasta firm started promoting a packaged model of an Armenian dish because of the efforts of a Canadian immigrant was advised by NPR’s The Kitchen Sisters some time again, and is well worth a listen.) Whereas I really like that Rice-a-Roni introduced a small a part of Armenian delicacies into American culinary historical past, and recognize the worth of comfort meals prefer it, right here’s the factor: Home made rice pilaf is much superior to something you’ll find in a field and it is virtually as straightforward and fast to make!
Right here’s the way it’s achieved: After rinsing the rice of extra starch, you soften a beneficiant chunk of butter in a saucepan over medium warmth, then add a handful of pasta. (Most Armenians use vermicelli “nests,” crushed gently into 1- to 2-inch lengthy threads, however you may as well use busted-up straight vermicelli, angel hair, or quick, non-tubular pasta like orzo.) You retain a watchful eye on the noodles and stir often to stop them from burning, till they toast to a deep golden brown. (Within the course of, the butter solids additionally brown, lending the dish its important nutty, toasty taste.) As soon as the pasta is toasted, you add the rice, cook dinner it briefly within the butter to assist maintain the grains separate, add salt, pepper, and rooster inventory, after which improve the warmth to excessive. As soon as the pot involves a boil, you flip the warmth all the best way down and let the liquid simmer gently below a lid for 10 minutes or so, till all of it has been absorbed. After that, you progress the pot off the warmth, place a folded towel below the lid, and let the rice and noodles steam for one more 10 minutes (the towel sucks up extra steam, permitting the rice to complete cooking via whereas the grains stay fluffy and separate).
The entire thing takes barely greater than half-hour, most of it—except for the cautious pasta-watching section—hands-off. And that little bit of additional effort and time yields a scrumptious, fragrant, and opulent aspect dish that is way over the sum of its easy elements.
My recipe for rice pilaf is fairly commonplace, except for a number of minor refinements. Different recipes range, however I exploit a fair 2:1 ratio (by quantity) of inventory to rice, which is each straightforward to recollect and yields what I consider as simply the suitable last consistency. And I prefer to soak my rice in sizzling faucet water for 10 minutes earlier than cooking it, which helps to take away any final traces of floor starch, whereas additionally pre-softening the rice simply sufficient that it cooks via evenly. (Some recipes for pilaf have you ever soak the rice for hours and even in a single day in chilly water for a similar purpose.)
What about pre-toasting the pasta?
Many rice pilaf recipes recommend pre-toasting the pasta dry, in bulk, to avoid wasting time and maybe keep away from the chance of burning it on the stovetop. Whereas that’s one thing many individuals do, I don’t personally suppose it saves a lot time in the long term (particularly since you continue to must brown the butter), so I don’t hassle. However you may should you like: Simply place the pasta on a rimmed baking sheet in a single later and cook dinner it on the center rack of a 325˚F oven till deep golden brown, 10 to fifteen minutes. As soon as cool, you may retailer it in a jar—damaged up or complete—till wanted.
What about bulgur pilaf?
Armenians additionally like to make this dish utilizing bulgur instead of the rice, and the excellent news is that it may be made with a fair swap of 1 grain for the opposite, by quantity. In contrast to rice pilaf, it’s not essential to pre-soak the bulgur; all it wants is a fast rinse. Bulgur pilaf will be made utilizing any grade of bulgur, although it really works greatest with medium or coarse bulgur (that are conveniently simpler to seek out in supermarkets than effective bulgur).