There are as many recipes for plov, the Uzbek version of rice pilaf, as there are cooks who make it. Choices of meats, vegetables, and spices are up for debate, but all plovs start with more liquid than your typical rice pilaf, almost a proto-stew which the rice soaks up. My plov eschews meat for ample amounts of vegetables, which makes for a lighter, cleaner end result. But if you want to make this a one-pot meal, add a pound of cubed lamb shoulder and use rendered lamb or duck fat as your cooking medium. Though plov isn't always made with saffron (it's often seen as too humble for such luxury), it's one of my favorite applications for the spice. Saffron deepens the flavors of cumin, coriander, and caramelized vegetables while contributing an addictive aroma.
This is a simple, humble dish, but it's some of the best comfort food I know. It's a crowd pleaser with a touch of the exotic, hearty but not heavy. Perfect winter grub.
- 1 cup long-grained rice
- 1/4 cup oil (or lamb or duck fat)
- 2 large carrots, shredded on the small holes of a box grater
- 2 medium onions, sliced into thin half moons
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons coriander, toasted and freshly ground
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin, toasted and freshly ground
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- Pinch saffron, about 20 threads
Rinse rice in a fine mesh strainer until water runs clear. Transfer rice to bowl and cover with water while prepping other ingredients.
Heat oil on high in large sauté pan until almost smoking and stir in carrots. Fry, stirring frequently, until oil is orange colored and carrots are deeply caramelized on the edges. Add onions and salt, stir to coat with oil, and fry until browned.
Add spices and stir to combine until fragrant, then add rice. Stir frequently until rice browns slightly and smells nutty. Pour in one cup fresh water, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover. Let rice cook for 15 minutes, then check for doneness—add water in 1/4 cup increments if rice is still dry and cook uncovered. Fold rice on bottom of pan over to prevent burning. Plov is done when rice is tender but still toothsome. Season to taste and serve immediately.