Thursday, July 12, 2012

Classic Rice Pilaf and Little White Lies

You’re a great cook. You know it, and so do all your friends. There are no techniques or recipes you haven’t mastered, well, except for one… you stink at making rice. Sure, when it comes up in conversation you lie and say your rice rocks, and offer advice to your unsuspecting friends, but we know the truth.

It’s okay. You’re not alone. Cooking a perfect batch of white rice without a rice cooker can be a challenge. I attempted to solve this issue in 2007, when I posted “How To Make Perfect White Rice,” but if for whatever reasons you still can’t do it, no problem! We’re simply going to have you do what so many great minds over the centuries have done in these situations…give up.

That’s right, we going for forget about cooking rice on the stove, and show you the incredibly delicious and absolutely foolproof world of pilaf! Because it’s coated with butter first, and baked with less liquid, this almost magical recipe will give you magazine quality rice every time (and I’m talking about the good food magazines, not those ones that went out of business).

I’m showing a fairly classic version here, which includes the extremely optional ingredient, saffron. If you are not familiar with this exotic spice, follow this wiki-link to get more info, as the subtle taste is very hard for me to describe. By the way, it’s crazy expensive and you’ll only want a tiny pinch, for too much will dominate the palette.

You also want a high-quality, non-discount brand of rice. Cheap rice has lots of broken grains, which do not cook evenly. So, if there’s shame in your rice game, I hope you give this great rice pilaf recipe a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for about 6 servings:
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
2 cups white long grain rice
pinch of saffron, optional
3 cups good quality chicken stock or broth (or water if you must)
1 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
pinch of cayenne  
*wrap very tightly in foil, bake at 350 for 35 minutes, let rest 10 more, and then fluff!

View the complete recipe

58 comments:

RedGem said...

Wow... time for Smell TV... you didn't mention the amount of olive oil in your ingredients... just a splash? Tks for sharing such a great side dish I will have to definitely try this and stop buying the Rice Pilaf packages that are very salty.

Kimberley Chai said...

Thank you so much for the new video, Chef John! Do you think you could have a video for banoffee pie next? Would be nice to watch and learn! :)

Dano said...

This looks terrific Chef John! But please tell me, is there any benefit/disadvantages to toasting the rice in the hot melted butter before adding the stock? I ask because that's what I do when making plain rice (learned that from mom!).

Chef John said...

it helps keep all the grains separate (and tastes good) ;)

John Carroll said...

My Rice Rocks? No, not quite! But yours does! Rock On John! Thanks for all the great recipes with videos! More!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Will this work for short grain rice as well?

I usually treat rice like pasta and boil it in salted water, adding the sauce from the protein I've cooked up.

Chef John said...

You could probably adjust and it would work, but best with long grain.

Anonymous said...

HI CHEF,
Would this recipe be ok with basmati rice?

Chef John said...

Yes!

Anonymous said...

I can not afford Saffron. Can Turmeric be used instead? If so, how much would you suggest?

Chef John said...

Just leave it out! I hate turmeric, so I'm not sure.

Axel14222 said...

Chef, for nutritional reasons, I now use brown rice. Will this technique work with brown or, should I just test it and report back?
Belated birthday greetings.

Chef John said...

Never tried with brown rice since it has to cook so much longer. Thanks!!

Anonymous said...

I rock the kitchen AND avoid rice at all costs!! thanks for the recipe.

James said...

Chef John,

I've made your 'Perfect White Rice' many times and it has indeed come out perfect every time. I do plan on trying this recipe out, as do most of what you have posted (your chicken & rice did save my life!).

I'm not sure how you feel about recipes from other sites, but this baked mushroom risotto is fantastic

http://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-baked-mushroom-risotto-136836

If you need to delete this post, no worries. I will still feel that your videos are talking just to me when I watch them.

Pantalone said...

Nice fluffy rice!

By the way, maybe try The Billy Goat Tavern while your in and about Chicago.

I've heard from relatives (Evanston) that it's a fun place. I don't know tho.

Cheers and happy belated birthday!
I reside on the almost exact opposite side of the zodiac.

Anonymous said...

Chef John,
I love your blog!!
What measurement is 1/2 a yellow onion finely diced? At my grocery store the onions are HUGE and it looks like 1/2 of one of those onions would be a lot more than your video shows. Would you say 1/4 cup of finely chopped onion? 1/2 cup?
Thank you for much for your advise.

Steve said...

Chef:

What's tiny, white, and crawls up your leg?

Uncle Ben's Perverted Rice.

Seriously, this looks great and I make halfway decent rice without too much effort -- start with about twice as much water as rice, a little butter, and a pinch or two of salt, cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium until the water is gone, then reduce to either a simmer or just turn the heat off and let it coast. Easy.

What I'd like to learn to make is Persian rice. There used to be a little hole in the wall restaurant in La Jolla that made the most incredible aromatic rice. I kept asking the owner for his secret and all he'd ever tell me was practice, practice, practice.

Sadly, the restaurant has gone out of business and I never learned his secret.

Matt said...

This looks yum. That said, I watched your white rice recipe... man that is more complicated than it has to be. I pretty much only use basmati outside of risotto. The way I do it is simple, measure out half a cup per person, boil waiter (same 2 to 3 ratio) in a kettle or something. In the pot, heat a little olive oil and butter, once it is melted, throw in the rice and stir around a bit, then comes the water. I dont really measure any more at all. My pot has a glass lid which is useful later. Leave it covered and boil on high. Once it is going, turn down to a third of your heat and stir. Cover on this low temp and watch the water evaporate. Stir every now and then. Once the water is gone, you are done. If the rice is still crunchy, your temp was not low enough. You can add more water, but this will result in super sticky rice, good if you intend to eat with chopsticks, but otherwise, it is not nearly as nice. Oh, and one last thing, this is sort of important, rinse your rice. Basmati wants a rinsing and if you can, a soaking. I have never had any issues with this method... except if you do not pay attention the rice can and will burn to the bottom of the pot.

Anonymous said...

Turmeric would work here. 1/4 teaspoon should roughly be the equivalent amount. Perhaps a bit less.

I do a lot of rice with 2 cups of long-grain rice (jasmine, usually), 3 cups of chicken broth and 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric right in the rice cooker.

Jason Smith said...

Chef...PLEASE answer this.

What measuring cups did you use: liquid or dry? I have always been afraid to ask this stupid question and I would love to hear your answer.

Thank you:)

Bob Walters said...

I laughed at the subtle reference to Jim Crow. Very clever.

I used to live in Iran where I learned to make the Persian rice that Steve mentioned. It's idiot proof and I'll post the technique if you wish.

Chef John said...

Bob, not sure ill film, but I'd love to see that technique. Thanks!

Chef John said...

Jason,

Not sure what you mean.
There's no such thing as liquid or dry measuimg cups. A cup is a measure of volume. A cup of any substance is a cup. Of course a cup of flour and a cup of lead don't weigh the same, but they are still both a cup.

Chef John said...

Bob, thanks for noticing!

Bob Walters said...

I learned to cook basic Persian rice (Chelo) when I lived in Iran and it's the only way I've cooked rice (except for risotto) for the past 40 years. It is quick, easy, and fool proof. Precision timing or measuring is not required.

Boil a couple of quarts of water in a big pot. Use WAY more water than normal, much like cooking pasta. Add roughly two cups of dry rice; I prefer Basmati but any long grain rice will work. Cook uncovered and start testing a grain or two after around 20 minutes or so. The rice should just be tender; i.e. slightly al dente and not mushy. The water will NOT be all absorbed; not even close.

Drain in a colander and wash with hot tap water until the water runs clear, or nearly clear if you want the rice retain a tiny bit of stickiness.

Dry the pot. Carefully spoon (don't dump) the rice into the pot to form a pointed, fluffy mound. Drizzle oil of your choice ( I use sunflower oil) in a thin stream starting at the top of the mound and spiral down the the mound in a circular motion. Use roughly a quarter of a cup of oil for two cups dry rice.

Cover the pot with a tea towel which has NOT been scented with a fabric softener. Put the lid on over the towel and fold the edges of the towel up over the the lid. The towel will absorb the steam and prevent the rice from getting mushy. Cook over very low heat for 10 minutes. Serve immediately for "normal", fool-proof, fluffy rice. However, you can hold this rice for an hour or more on low heat if you wish.

Over time the bottom will harden and eventually turn into a crusty golden brown layer called tahdig. This layer is considered a treat. Break the bottom crust into pieces and serve it on top of the rice if you want the rice dish to be more "Persian" or throw it away if you simply want fluffy rice when guests arrive late.

The quantity is limited only by the size of your pot. Just be sure to use plenty of water.

Chef John said...

Thanks Bob! And everyone else chiming in with rice knowledge!

S/V Blondie-Dog said...

Hi Chef,

My lady-friend just poo-pooed any idea of cooking rice in the oven... as in "I ain't gonna heat up the whole house just for rice".

Should I perhaps consider getting a new girlfriend?

Thanks and greetings from Florida.

Razors Edge said...

Chef John, can I use arborio rice in this recipe? I saw it on Top Chef and I really want to impress my friends.

Chef John said...

Never tried, but don't think so. This recipe is for long grain.

Steve said...

Bob:

Thanks for the Persian "fool proof" rice!

Of course, you don't know what a fool I can be. . .

Denise said...

This is one dish I never make successfully. Going to use your tips for sure! Thanks, Chef.

Barbara said...

A neighbour just dropped by tonight with a brand new jar of saffron for me. Not really sure why, but I won't argue! (I mean, seriously. Who just drops over to give a neighbour a spare ounce of gold?) Looks like my rice is about to get fabulous. Thanks for the videos!

Unknown said...

Chef John, I just did this and it absolutely ROCKED! Thank you!

Carla E said...

Thank you so much for this recipe! I tried it earlier this week, and it turned out perfect!
We had it (shaped nicely thanks to your mold suggestion) next to your chicken piccata. Two winners that are going to be in the rotation from now on.

Peggy said...

Alton Brown does a baked brown rice recipe. He baked it for an hour...although I'm not kitchen-savvy enough to say that this timing would work here. I did try his recipe and it was just ok. This loks much better! But my boyfriend prefers brown rice...although I've never gotten it right once. Help, Chef John!
(But you've made me fabulous enough with other dishes that I can just make my brown rice disasters fade into a distant memory by alluring his appetite with countles other culinary-genius approaches...)

Elizabella said...

This is the first recipe of yours that I have tried and it resulted in the best rice I have ever made -- significantly better than anything that came out of my rice cooker as well!

Chef John said...

Nice! :)

Casey said...

Trying this out with brown rice and veggie stock (since I'm vegetarian) and also added some garlic in with the onion. Cooking it at 375 for 1 hour. Hopefully it works!

Anonymous said...

Halved the recipe and turned out perfect!! Thank you so much...

Anonymous said...

Hi Chef

It seems you missed the "pinch of cayenne" in your written recipe. It really does add to the flavor. Great recipe!!

May said...

Absolutely fail proof! It turned out very nice. I've never been sucessful cooking long grain rice. Thanks and keep doing what you do.

Chef John said...

thanks!

Nes said...

Hi Chef John!

I love your blog! Every time I make something using your recipes my family loves it =)

Question about this recipe... what if I don't have cayenne? Will it taste the same without it, or can I replace it with something else?

Thanks!!
Nes

Chef John said...

It's just hot pepper, so use it or not, doesn't matter. Of course it tastes difference with (otherwise I wouldn't bother), but perfectly fine without!

1Bigg_ER said...

I used to always cook 2 cups of rice, Why? because the liquid ratio is easy with 2 cups of rice. Then I decided to experiment. For my household, I use 1:1 rice to liquid ratio for "cooked" firm rice (great for fried rice) or 1:1.25 for softer rice. Always coat (sautee) the rice with ghee before adding liquid. I use foil WITH the pan lid making sure that no steam escapes.

Mr anderson said...

Great recipe but isn't the proper ratio is 1 rice to 2 cups water?

So in this recipe Chef John used 2 cups rice which means 4 cups water/stock.

Chef John said...

No!! That's too much water for this method!

Mr anderson said...

With all due respect Chef John allow me to explain.

On sat on PBS if you know is the weekly show Simply Ming and the show was about rice pilaf baked in the oven as well and on the show he used 4 cups water. And I just used the same method before I saw your response and it came out fine.

But rather than put in the oven, after I sauteed everything with Ming's recipe which include shallots, garlic, ginger, bay leaf and tbls of gram Marsala I put it in my Yojirushi rice cooker because I wanted to take the easy route and it came out fine.

Chef John said...

You asked about THIS recipe! This recipe is 1 1/2 to 1 ratio. Of course there are hundreds of rice recipes with all kinds of proportions. Not sure why you were even asking if you weren't using this one. But glad you liked it.

Victor Aguirre said...

Hello Chef John!

I followed the recipe to the miligram, but the rice came out undercooked :( so I added 1 more cup of stock, back in the oven for 10 min, then 10 min rest and it was
Awesome
:D

ddranch said...

Chef John you are hysterical ....the "word on the street is that you stink at making rice" comment..I was laughing so hard, that I missed some of your rice demo, had to replay, and it happened again....you really make me laugh with all you're side commentary...oh my GOSH...sooo funny.

Bam B said...

I followed your recipe but used brown rice instead and precooked it for about 20 mins on the stove with a little chicken bouillon since brown rice takes longer to cook. I then added that to my sautéed golden onions cooked in coconut oil instead of butter or olive oil (a healthier version). The coconut flavor cooks out so what you're left with is a fleeting aroma of it.

Afterwards I added the other spices and fluffed it with a large serving fork. The key is to *fluff* really gently.

It turned out really well. My sixteen year old daughter called it **Spectacular**. That was quite a compliment since she has great culinary skills as well.

My family thanks you! :)

Soufian Bouraajaj said...

I just want to ask if there is a alternative for butter, which makes it more healthy to eat maybe? Im impressed by youre videos on youtube. Thumbs up!

Chef John said...

You can use olive oil, but a little bit of butter is not unhealthy at all.

Soufian Bouraajaj said...

Thanks for the comment Chef John. Oke then, i will try to combine olive oil with a little bit of butter. I hope it works out!

Jerry Drzewiecki said...

You advise 1/2 yellow onion. What is the size of a yellow onion? Depending on the vendor and the season, yellow onions can greatly vary in size, at least. in my local grocery stores. I prefer precise measurements (i.e. cups and/or spoons) at least for my first initial attempt to emulate your recipes. I'll make my own adjustments later. This onion issue seems to pervade a large number of recipes I have seen in print or in video. Any solution aside from replying with a snide or wise-ass comment?

Chef John said...

You may be over-thinking this. For this recipe at least, literally half of any yellow onion you'd find in the grocery store would work perfectly.