Who knew that making a fragrant red onion rice pilaf could raise so many questions.
- To rinse or not to rinse the basmati rice prior to cooking it, that’s one question.
- To use butter and water or oil and broth to cook the basmati rice, that’s another question.
- To soak or not to soak the basmati rice prior to cooking, that is yet another question.
So many questions for such a straight-forward dish, right? Sure, even the simplest of dishes require some well-honed basic techniques to come out right, but I found so many different takes on how to make the perfect rice pilaf that it made my head spin. I had to retrieve it in my backyard, lodged under some bushes…just like the “On Top of Spaghetti” children’s song about a mobile meatball. (Children’s musician Laurie Berkner had the best take on the song. I know this from being a mom and taking my girls to one of her concerts. Unfortunately I couldn’t find her version anywhere online. Bummer.)
More internet trolling just led to more questions.
- To cook rice covered or to cook rice uncovered, that is the question.
- To cook rice on the range or to cook it in the oven, as one of Gordon Ramsay’s pilaf recipes instructs, that is the question.
- To partially cook the rice before draining it and returning it to the pan to cook some more, or to completely cook the rice before fluffing with a fork, that is the question.
- To steam the cooked rice by covering with a lid or by covering it with a tea towel, that is yet another question.
And, for the grande finale, one final final question: when do we stop asking questions and just make the darn pilaf????????
Thankfully for me, I’ve been making pilafs for years without scratching my head over which method to use. That’s because I learned how to make it from one of the best cooks that I know personally, my sister. Thanks to her coaching and technique, I didn’t have to suffer through sludgy pilafs in order to learn how to prepare them perfectly, so that each fluffy grain could lay proudly on our dinner plates in all of its pleasantly chewy, aromatic and non-sticky glory.
Here are the questions once more, with my answers. Please feel free to chime in if your experience differs from mine. I am a life-long student and am always eager to learn from others.
- To rinse or not to rinse the basmati. DEFINITELY RINSE! It removes excess starch from the grains of rice, which prevents the rice from turning sticky in the pot.
- To use butter and water or oil and broth to cook the basmati rice. IT’S A PREFERENCE THING. For any person that says butter and water is the best, you’ll find one that claims oil and broth is. I’m an oil and broth fan myself.
- To soak or not to soak the basmati rice prior to cooking. BAH-HUMBUG! No need to soak rice! Some say that it makes the rice fluffier, but I’ve eaten the fluffiest of pilafs time and time again and never had a single grain been soaked. Save yourself the time planning.
- To cook rice covered or to cook rice uncovered. COVERED. Enough said.
- To cook rice on the range or to cook it in the oven. I’ve only ever baked it once, and I was not impressed. Just know, however, that baking a pilaf will not create that coveted Tah-dig ta-da, which is the golden brown and crunchy crust that develops at the bottom of the pilaf pot. It has an amazingly rich and nutty flavor and is in itself a reason to make pilaf in the first place.
- To partially cook the rice before draining it and returning it to the pan to cook some more, or to completely cook the rice before fluffing with a fork. SAY WHAT???? This is just pomposity at its best. Just let those cute little grains cook and do their magic without hassling them mid-way.
- To steam the cooked rice by covering with a lid or by covering it with a tea towel. USE THE TEA TOWEL. When using a lid, steam condenses on the underbelly of the lid and when you lift the lid the water drops come raining down on your pilaf. Using a tea towel prevents that from happening and your fluffy grains remain fluffy and dry.
Final question: At the risk of repeating myself, can we just get started on making fragrant red onion rice pilaf? I’m tired of…em, talking.
Absolutely. Oh, but before we begin, let me just add that this ‘riddled’asparagus with curry butter side dish goes particularly well with this delicious pilaf…just sayin’.
making fragrant red onion rice pilaf
Wash 1 cup of Basmati rice in plenty of water, drain and set aside.
Slice 1 small red onion.
In a medium-sized, heavy bottomed pot heat 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter on medium heat. When it starts foaming, add 2 bay leaves, 1 small piece of cinnamon (or 1/8 teaspoon ground), and 4 whole cloves.
Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the sliced onion along with a couple of pinches of salt,
and stir for a minute and then cook, covered, for 10 minutes, until soft and browning.
Add the washed rice and mix well.
Add 1 ½ -2 cups of water or chicken or vegetable broth (liquid amount will depend on the rice packaging’s instructions).
Bring to a boil, cover, and cook for 15 minutes, until each kernel is tender but firm. Take off heat and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes.
Fluff with a fork before serving. Makes 4 servings.