Post # 152 In Search of Rice Pilaf

August 7, 2013 at 8:43 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post # 152 In Search of Rice Pilaf

If you’ve read this blog for a while you’ll know this next fact.  If you haven’t, let me just say this.  I like watching food programs on television.  I’ve been watching recipes develop on the tube since the summer I was fourteen.  It started as coercion on my mom’s part.  She was working but didn’t want to lose track of her “stories” so she made me watch the damn soap operas and report back to her each day on what happened.  (Talk about aggravating.  From a writer’s standpoint, it was hell.  No one is ever happy on a soap for longer than a week.)  After the last soap was done, the Dinah Shore show came on.  Who remembers that?  I’d watch that because she always had a cooking segment.

So we watch a lot of cooking shows.  We even have DVD collections of our favorites so we can watch them any time we want to.  We used to watch the cooking competitions that abound on Food Network and Bravo with great enjoyment, but they’ve sort of lost their appeal over the last couple of seasons.  A week or so ago, one of the contestants was booted off the Food Network Star competition because her food authority came under scrutiny.  She couldn’t answer the question, “What is rice pilaf?”  She said it was rice with stuff in it.  When she was telling the other cheftestants, one of them said it was basically just sautéed rice.

But it set me to thinking.  I didn’t know the exact definition of rice pilaf either.  I would have said the same thing.  It’s rice with stuff in it.  I remember America’s Test Kitchen did a rice pilaf that was basically sautéed onions to which you added the rice, browned it, then proceeded with the normal rice cooking process.  (See the post “Rice Rice Baby” for details.)  I know a recipe for a seafood pilaf that has rice, crab, little shrimp, and a host of other things that’s baked.  The first rice pilaf I ever had came from a box mix that had orzo, rice, and seasonings.  My sister introduced me to it.  I still eat it today.  So I was always under the impression that rice pilaf was simply rice with stuff in it.


Since it was puzzling me, I turned to the trusty interwebz and wikileaks, er, Wikipedia.  Turns out we’re all right.  At least, according to them.  Basically, rice pilaf is a rice that is cooked in a seasoned broth.  That broth can be as simple as water with salt, or wine, or chicken broth, any liquid the rice will absorb.  When rice cooks, it takes on the flavor of the cooking liquid while retaining its own unique flavor profile.  Sautéed vegetables and meats can be added to make it a fuller dish.  And, as usual, there are cultural and national differences that abound.  Sometimes they are so different, it’s hard to tell it’s the same dish.

Here’s just a partial list of recipes that derive from the basic pilaf methodology:

  • Arroz con pollo
  • Red Beans and Rice
  • Fried Rice
  • Jambalaya
  • Hoppin’ John
  • Kedgeree
  • Mujaddara
  • Paella
  • Rice and Peas
  • Risotto
  • Spanish Rice
  • Jagacida

I’ve had all of these and while they are wildly divergent in preparation, flavor, and presentation, they are basically the same dish with varying ingredients.

So, what the heck IS rice pilaf?  Near as I can tell from reading what I could about it until I was tired of reading about it (about a half hour), it’s rice with stuff in it that’s been sautéed then cooked in broth of some form.  Unless, someone else has a better, more professional definition?

Seafood Pilaf

  • 1 1/2 cups long grain white rice
  • 1 can chicken noodle soup
  • 1 can sliced mushrooms with the liquid
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 6oz can crab meat
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 can cocktail shrimp

In a large dutch oven, heat olive oil on medium heat to shimmering.  Add onion and garlic and sauté for about a minute, then add rice.  Sauté rice until it starts to brown.  Add all other ingredients and mix thoroughly.  Cover and put in 325 degree oven.  Bake one hour covered.  Check for doneness.  Add extra chicken broth if needed and continue cooking uncovered until rice is completely cooked.  Serve warm with salad and crackers.

Good stuff.  If you like seafood.


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