Friday, June 22, 2012

0 Recipe #310: Aromatic Basmati Rice (Pilau) -- Ready in Only 15 Minutes!

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I made this aromatic side dish (as an accompaniment to chana masala) for both my lunch and dinner guests today and they all really loved it. The guests kept commenting on how good it smelled while it was cooking. And if you make this rice recipe, it'll fill your entire kitchen with its lovely fragrance and just make your whole house smell wonderful too!

And the best part about making this recipe?! It's super easy to make and takes only 15 minutes to cook! You can either make it in a sauce pot or, if you have one, a rice steamer; either way, there's no slicing or dicing. Seriously, there's almost zero kitchen prep. In fact, the latter method is even easier than cooking it on the stove. You basically just wash the rice and then dump everything in the pot, cook using the preset timer, et le voilà, you're done! Can't get much easier than that. :) You get maximum flavor for minimum effort. Gotta love that, eh?!


Aromatic Basmati Rice (Pilau)

Ingredients:
2 c. water
1 c. brown basmati rice
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 large bay leaf
3 3" whole cinnamon sticks, broken in half
5 whole cloves
14 whole green cardamom pods
1 tsp. fennel seeds
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground turmeric
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1 1/2 tsp. saffron (or 1 tsp. if you like a less-pronounced saffron flavor), soaked in 2 Tbsp. plain soy milk and then stirred to combine
1/4 tsp. + 1/16 tsp. (a pinch) salt, or to taste
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper, or to taste
1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro

Stove Top Directions: Wash the rice by placing it into a large strainer, running it under cold water, and then swishing it around until the water runs clear. (This will remove any excess starch coating the rice). Feel free to use your fingers to swirl the rice around in the strainer to ensure the rice is thoroughly washed. Drain and set aside (over a small bowl). Heat olive oil in a medium-sized sauce pot on high heat until glistening. Add whole spices (bay leaf, cinnamon sticks, cloves, cardamom pods, fennel seeds, and cumin seeds), and "flash fry" for 60 seconds to release the spices' essence, covering pot with a splatter screen to avoid being burned by spluttering oil. Reduce heat to low, add rice, and cook for 1 minute more, stirring occasionally. Watch pot closely so the rice doesn't burn; rice will be a light golden brown when ready. (This is done to crisp the rice and keep it from getting soggy as it cooks while immersed in water.) Reduce heat to low, add water and the remaining spices -- minus the cilantro -- and stir. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and simmer for 15 minutes (for al dente rice), or until water has been completely absorbed. (Check on rice after 15 minutes to make sure it hasn't cooked down too quickly. If it needs to cook for longer, add water as necessary.) Remove from heat and let rice rest for about 10 minutes. With a spoon, remove bay leaf, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and cardamom seeds and discard. Fluff rice with a fork, then sprinkle cilantro into the pot, stirring just until combined. Divide into four portions, and serve immediately.

Rice Steamer Directions: Wash the rice by placing it into a large strainer, running it under cold water, and then swishing it around until the water runs clear. (This will remove any excess starch coating the rice). Feel free to use your fingers to swirl the rice around in the strainer to ensure the rice is thoroughly washed. Drain and set aside (over a small bowl). Add olive oil to rice steamer, followed by rice, water, and all spices -- except for the cilantro, in that particular order. Stir once to combine and cover with inner steamer tray and lid. Cook for 15-20 minutes (for al dente rice), or until water has been completely absorbed.* (Check on rice after 15 minutes to make sure it hasn't cooked down too quickly &/or burned on the bottom. If it needs to cook for longer, add water as necessary.) If steamer doesn't have a timer with an auto-shut off feature, turn it off when rice has finished cooking. Let rice rest for about 10 minutes. With a spoon, remove bay leaf, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and cardamom seeds and discard. Fluff rice with a fork, then sprinkle cilantro into the steamer, stirring just until combined. Divide into four portions, and serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings.

Chef's Notes: *I use a Japanese rice steamer, Zojirushi, which, in my humble opinion, is the gold standard for rice steamers. :) Many, if not most, rice steamers have a built-in timer with an auto-shut-off feature; there's usually a button you can depress to cook the rice that will release with a pop when the rice is done. Typically, this will take about 15-20 minutes, although you can cook it for longer if you like your rice a bit softer than al dente.

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