A long time ago, when I catered for an American Heart Association charity dinner, I made this pilaf. I don’t really remember what inspired me to make it, except that I know it was part of a spring menu featuring beef as the protein. Fortunately it went over very well.
As some of you might know, when you cook for the public, you have to be careful. You really can’t make anything too “crazy” or it will turn people off, no matter how gourmet or trendy the ingredients might be. But make everything too bland and blah, and no one will ever hire you for your catering services. So there exists a fine line.
Honestly, I discovered long ago when I cooked for various charities, that the less people knew, the better off they were. If I put out tent cards with a descriptive menu, I would hear lots of “EEEWWWWWWSSS,” or “I’m not eating thats” before anyone even saw their meal! So I learned to keep things to myself, and tentative diners ended up enjoying their food much more!
I’ve been wanting to repeat this pilaf for a long time now, because it was really good and unique as well. There are two main flavors in the pilaf – orange and leeks. For the orange, I used orange oil – that is, orange-infused oil.
For the rice, I used long-grained brown in this recipe, which I don’t love, but I needed to use it up. Short-grained rice, which I prefer, hulled barley, or even kamut could be substituted, with some extra cooking time.
So here’s my recipe for my spring-inspired rice pilaf. It is good with just about any protein, from beef to scallops.
1/4 cup orange-infused olive oil*
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 small leeks, cleaned, sliced crosswise
1 cup long-grained brown rice
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 cup frozen petite peas, slightly thawed
Place the oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and leeks.
Sauté for a few minutes; a little caramelization is okay.
Pour in the rice and stir it into the onion-leek mixture until all the grains are coated with oil.
Add the chicken broth, the salt, and the pepper.
Bring the liquid to a boil, then cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and turn the burner down to the lowest setting. Let the rice cook for 35 minutes. Then turn off the stove, but leave the lid on for about 15 minutes more.
Remove the lid, then stir in the peas. Gently mix everything together.
Serve hot with your desired protein. I served this pilaf with an Asian-marinated venison short loin. Asian flavors and orange really compliment each other.
If you love parsley, add some chopped parsley over the pilaf, or a few finely chopped chives.
If you want the pilaf even more citrusy, add some grated orange or lemon rind.
* I highly recommend using an orange-infused oil in this recipe, but if you can’t find it, try adding some orange zest to the pilaf right before serving. Or use a few drops of sweet orange oil.
note: Depending on the rice or other grain you use, cooking times will differ, as well as the amount of liquid necessary in which to cook it. Read the package directions so you get the grain-to-liquid ratio correct.