On March 17, Chef Connie Bearden from Sodexo was featured in our Visiting Chef Series. Chef Connie introduced our new trainees to the wide world of rice pilaf. Rice is one of humanity’s oldest crops, and in some cultures it was even used as currency. Pilafs are steamed dishes that can be made with a wide number of ingredients. Chef Connie had some great advice to make rice anything but boring.
Rice types go way beyond grain length and brown or white. A rich spectrum of colors is found, and each variety expands differently when cooked. For example, the ends of jasmine rice explode and become puffy. Learn about these differences, and always keep the characteristics of the dish in mind to select an appropriate variety of rice.
Rice pilafs require 2 phases of cooking: in a skillet, and in the oven. While in the skillet, keep the rice moving to avoid burning it. Pilaf should be baked until all the liquid in the dish is gone, which typically takes 30 to 40 minutes. The rice should be soft, light, and fluffy. Fluff the pilaf with a fork before serving to prevent crushing the grains.
There really aren’t any set rules for what you can add. Pilafs come in many forms and flavors from all over the world. Experiment freely, and look to other cultures for inspiration. Keep the entire meal in mind to help select ingredients that will complement the other components.