Emergency Not-Quite Rice Pilaf
Mmmm, risotto. It’s a nice thing to make. The process of slowly stirring ladle after ladle of simmering broth into the rice is almost meditative. You can drift away into a whole other world while you stir. Plus, risotto is creamy, cheesy, decadent. Everything I needed this week. It’s been a week. But what on earth does this have to do with rice pilaf?
Well, I had grand plans to try a recipe from Rice & Risotto and let you know how it was. I had all the ingredients. I’ve been cooking a great deal from the pantry and freezer this week, using up odd bits of this and that. Too bad I didn’t realize my arborio was ancient.
Smelled stale. Worse, there was a bug in it. A bug. And if there was a bug, there was bug poop. I was not making bug poop risotto. Into the compost bucket it went.
Stale arborio doesn’t make good risotto, anyway. It’s darn near impossible to get it to perform the arborio magic trick if it’s stale — the trick that makes the rice creamy and chewy at the same time — and then the whole point of the dish is lost. So. No risotto for me. I had to make something else. The M.E. was going to be home soon, hungry after a day of working in glorious corporate America battling braindead fools.
What could I make with the ingredients I had? Pilaf! But that, of course, wasn’t going to satisfy my risotto-tooth, so perhaps I could mess with it a bit. That’s the best part about cooking — you can just do whatever tastes good. Improvising like this, when something’s gone wrong, can be fun.
I cut up shallots and mushrooms.
Sauteed the shallots in a little olive oil until they started to brown. Then added a cup of basmati rice…
…and stirred the rice around until it was coated with oil.
I poured in a cup and a half of chicken broth plus a half cup of water. (Sorry, no homemade stock today!)
Then I covered the pan, brought it to a boil and turned it down to a simmer.
While the rice was cooking (it needs about 15 minutes–the halfway point is the perfect time to throw some pounded chicken breasts in the broiler), I sauteed the mushrooms in a tablespoon of butter. You want to turn the flame up good and high here, and get a nice sear on the mushrooms. This is one time I don’t worry about butter burning — no need to add oil — because mushrooms throw off so much water.
When the rice was maybe three or four minutes away from being done, I tossed in some frozen peas I’d defrosted, and covered the pan again.
I added pepper, a goodly amount of dried thyme, and a little bit of salt. Not much salt. Then when the rice was ready, I threw in the mushrooms, a tablespoon of butter, and — here’s the not-quite-pilaf part, the you can do anything you want part — grated parmesan cheese. Quite a bit. Stir like crazy, off the heat, till the cheese melts.
Yup. Cheese. Not a traditional pilaf ingredient. But I was making it, and I wanted cheese. So there. This is why the dish doesn’t need much salt, heh.
And how was this odd love-child of pilaf and risotto?
To quote the M.E. (who truly was sick of fools and in need of comfort food), “That’s fantastic! I could eat the whole pan!” ‘Twas rather good, if I do say so myself, even though it didn’t have that risotto creaminess I was craving. So my friends, fear not a pantry containing stale, buggy arborio. There’s always pilaf to be messed with.
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