Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Here's the next to last recipe from my recent Low Country cooking class. This recipe is for a classic rice dish called pilau. The word is quite obviously a variant of pilaf, but the Sandlappers have invented their own pronunciation that is more at "perloo" than anything.

It seems to me, but I'm no expert, that the pilaf originated in what is roughly Persia and dispersed throughout the world. The similarity among pilau, pilaf, pullao, polow, paella, risotto, jambalalya, biryani, and like dishes is amazing. The majority of these dishes, like pilau, call for adding rice to boiling liquid. Some, like risotto, are stirred until the end; others are finished in the oven; still others are steamed. Other dishes such as biryani are completed by mixing cooked rice with the sauce and garnishes. In any case, they're all delicious.

My pilau is started as for jambalaya and finished by stirring like risotto. This is not atypical of pilau, but there are as many variations and methods as there are cooks. I would say that more cooks cover their pilau and let it gently steam itself rather than stir it as I do. I love the texture of my version.

The key to pilau for me is the rice. I use Carolina Gold rice, an heirloom Low Country rice available from many outlets including Anson Mills.

Ed's Pilau

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large poblano chile, diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 bunch green onions, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
4 Surry sausages, diced
2 cups Carolina Gold rice
1 cup diced tomatoes
4-6 cups stock
1 T minced garlic
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
fresh parsley
crushed red pepper flakes to taste
salt to taste
black pepper to taste

Heat a heavy bottomed pan over medium high flame and film it with the oil. Add the onions, peppers, celery, and sausage and cook until the yellow onions turn translucent. Add the rice and stir for a couple of minutes. Add the tomatoes and two cups of the stock. Let the rice come just to the boil and adjust the flame so that it simmers. Add the garlic, thyme, parsley, red pepper, and a little salt and pepper.

Continue to stir as necessary to keep the rice from sticking and to release the starch from the rice into the liquid. It is this starch that gives this pilau its silky texture, like risotto. As the stock evaporates, add small quantities of additional stock as needed until the rice is done to your liking, about 20-25 minutes. Season to taste.

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