Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Herbed Rice Pilaf with Almonds - International Side

The classic American meal, as I recall it, consists of an entree, and two side dishes - one starch, one veggie. Once you get tired of mashed potatoes or bread for the starchy side, though, you start to come around to rice. Rice is a great grain. I love it and so do millions of other people, worldwide. Rice can be a little bland by itself, though. In our case, we're going to kick up the rice's flavor by adding a few herbs to make a fluffy, savory, side dish.

Traditionally, a pilaf is a rice dish cooked in broth and seasoned with herbs and spices. Not all pilafs are the same. It's origins are in the middle east, but variations can be found throughout east Africa, as well as central and southern Asia. Pilafs vary as widely as the cultures it came from, and the cultures where it spread, which is just about everywhere. Some people add meat and veggies, but that goes beyond what we're going to do with, here. For me, it's all about fluffy rice with herb-packed goodness.

Don't think for a minute you have to use the herbs I've listed. Try a few spices, while you're at it. Is the entree turkey with sage? Tie it together by adding sage. BBQ Chicken? Spice it up with paprika and a pinch of cayenne. Play around and make it your own.

Note: I've indicated dried thyme and parsley, because that's what I normally have on hand. You can substitute 1 teaspoon of freshly minced thyme, if you'd like. If you don't have fresh parsley on hand, you can used dried parsley. Add it along with the thyme before cooking the rice, though, or it won't give up it's flavor as well.

Equipment Needed
cutting board
chef's knife
non-stick skillet
long handled cooking spoon
measuring cups and spoons
garlic press (optional)

1 small onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup sliced almonds.
3 Tablespoons butter
Salt and black pepper as needed
1 ½ cups long-grain rice
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
2 ¼ cups chicken broth
¼ cup fresh, chopped parsley.

Toast the almonds in a dry, non-stick skillet over medium heat until fragrant and toasty, about 4 minutes. Keep them moving so they don't burn. Remove from the heat and transfer them to a plate to cool.

Melt the butter in a medium to large saucepan over medium-high heat. At the onion and a pinch of salt. Cook until just softened, about 3 minutes.
Add the rice and cook, stirring frequently, until the edges start to turn translucent, about 2 minutes. This denatures the starches and helps the rice stay fluffy, not sticky.

Add the garlic, thyme, bay leaf, and dried parsley. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Stir in the chicken broth and bring the mixture to a boil. Cover, reducing the heat to low, and cook until most of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let it stand, covered, for 10 minutes more.

Discard the bay leaf and fluff with a fork. Stir in the almonds and fresh parsley, if using. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.

Makes 4 – 6 servings.

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