Chicken pilaf (plov) – when you want your rice in style

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Despite its simplicity, this dish has a history of thousands of years. Pilaf, or palov, osh-palov, biryani, pulão… It has known countless variations in India, Balkan, Caucasian, central and south Asian countries, and it’s basis is rice, cooked in a seasoned broth. The usual meat of choice is lamb, but here’s a version of the same dish, but with chicken.

So, ingredients:

  • 2 big white onions, finely chopped
  • 5-6 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped finely
  • 4-5 carrots, cut into matchsticks (or julienned, if you like 🙂 )
  • 6 chicken thigh fillets, cut into 3-4 chunks each
  • 6 chicken drumsticks, skin on
  • 4-6 tbsp canola oil
  • 3-4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp salt (or less, to taste)
  • 1/2 tbsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tbsp sweet paprika
  • 1.5 lb basmati rice
  • About 1.5 liters (3 quarts) boiling water

First, prepare all the ingredients – chop the garlic, onions, cut the carrots into matchsticks. I never use any “heavy machinery” for that – carrots are cut by hand only, because all the electric choppers or cutters, or even a hand slicer would make it too thin.

In a big pot with heavy bottom (preferably a cast iron one, or a dutch oven) heat the canola and olive oil till very hot (that’s the reason I mix olive oil with canola – olive oil has very low burning temperature, so canola leverages it). Now brown the chicken drumsticks, about 2 minutes, working by batches of 2. The reason is not to have the oil temperature dropped too fast. Once all the drumsticks are browned, remove from the pot and set aside.

Fry the onions and garlic till onions turn golden brown. At that moment start adding the chicken thighs chunks – not all together, again, you don’t want the temperature dropping too fast. Add about 1/2 tbsp of salt, the black pepper and the cumin, and stir fry the chicken for about 2-3 minutes till the meat changes colour.

Add the carrots in a single layer on top of the chicken and let it steam for 2-3 minutes. Then stir and fry for another 3-4 minutes.

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Once done, add the paprika and pour in boiling water just to cover the meat in the pot. Bring to boil and taste. Fix the seasoning, if needed. Now return the drumsticks to the pot, cover, turn the heat down to medium and cook for about 15 minutes.

Now open the pot and put the rice in an even layer on top of the meat. Then pour in boiling water to cover the rice about 2.5 cm (1″). Bring to boil and wait until the rice absorbs the liquids. Once the level of liquids is below the rice, cover tightly (I use a foil sheet under a heavy lid to make sure it’s really tight), turn the heat down to minimal and let it steam for at least 30-40 minutes.

That’s it, open, mix and enjoy!

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