Wednesday, November 20, 2013

What the heck is a "pilau" anyway?

I am such a dork sometimes.

There's this recipe I found in Southern Living magazine about 10 years ago and have been making ever since. It's called Chicken & Smoked Sausage Pilau. And for 10 years, every time I made it, I thought to myself, "What the heck is a pilau?" But I never thought until this week to just Google the damn word. Turns out it's just another variation of "pilaf." Which got me thinking, what exactly is a pilaf anyway? I know in general American restaurant terms it's just seasoned rice. But since general American restaurants have a tendency to generally bastardize everything, I looked up the term pilaf as well.

Here's what tells me about pilaf/pilau:


  [pi-lahfpee-lahf]  Show IPA
a Middle Eastern dish consisting of sautéed, seasoned rice steamed in bouillon, sometimes withpoultry, meat or shellfish.
rice cooked in a meat or poultry broth.
Also, pi·laff, pilaupilaw.

1925–30;  < Turkish pilâv  < Persian pilāw

Ahhh, that makes sense! The recipe is basically chicken, smoked sausage and rice. But the time, labor and seasonings make it so much more than what those three simple ingredients imply. And so it quickly became a favorite in our home. And since the recipe makes way too much for two people to eat - even taking leftovers and lunches into consideration - I always freeze half of it for later.

So, for my freezer cooking friends, here's the recipe - with my modifications from over the years. 

Chicken & Smoked Sausage Pilau
Adapted from Southern Living
(Cook time: approx. 1.5 hours; Serves 8-10)

Photo source:
5 lb whole chicken or whole chicken cut up
2 lb smoked sausage, sliced into 1" pieces
1 large bunch fresh thyme (or 2 tsp dried)
2 bay leaves
2 carrots, cut in half
3 celery ribs (including leafy parts), cut in half
2 large sweet onions, chopped
1-1/2 Tbsp seasoned salt
1/2 Tbsp black pepper
8 cups water
4 cups long-grain rice

In a large stockpot, bring all ingredients EXCEPT rice to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, 1 hour. Remove from heat and let stand 15 minutes. Remove and discard celery, carrots, thyme stems and bay leaf from stock, reserving stock in stockpot.* Remove chicken and cool slightly. Remove skin and bones, then coarsely chop chicken.

Saute sausage in large skillet until browned. Drain, if needed. Add chicken and sausage to reserved stock in stockpot and bring to a boil. Stir in rice and return to boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook 20 minutes or until stock is absorbed and rice is tender.

If you're not serving an army or are unwilling to eat leftovers of the same thing for a week, freeze some! Cool half of finished meal completely, place in gallon freezer bag, squeezing all excess air out of the bag as you close it. Press contents out to flatten bag and freeze. To reheat, thaw in refrigerator overnight and nuke for a couple of minutes. If rice is too dry for your liking, add a splash of chicken stock.

*I often get the veggies and herb stems out of my stock by placing a colander or sieve over a large mixing bowl and straining the stock into the bowl. Then dump the stock back into the pot. It can be downright maddening to chase soft pieces of carrot and those ninja bay leaves around in hot, murky chicken stock with a frickin' slotted spoon.

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