Thursday, July 21, 2011

Vegetable Pilaf with Prosciutto Ribbons and Egg Yolk

The difference between what I would call a pilaf or a risotto is almost the difference between a salad and a soup. Risotto is served pretty wet, with the starch and liquid elements creating a kind of sauce that binds the rice, and risotto can hold its own as an entree. Pilaf has distinct grains and usually accompanies something else. Heather was hungry, but I didn't want to tie myself up in the kitchen for half an hour making a risotto, so I decided to split the difference and make a pilaf with some extra crap on it that would be substantial enough to serve as a meal.

I started by making a sofrito of onions, garlic and carrot and sweating it in some olive oil. Then I added the rice, vegetable stock (did I mention I made stock? It's awesome) and a mashed chipotle pepper and brought it to a boil. Once the stock was boiling, I dunked a plum tomato in it for a few seconds, then retrieved, peeled and chopped it. If you add fresh tomato at the beginning of cooking something like this it mutes the bright flavor and the skin tends to slough off, turning nice tomato pieces into a rubbery rude confetti with bits of mush. I wanted the tomato to be a fresh element, so I reserved it to add at the end of cooking.

Dropping the tomato into the stock immediately lowered the temperature to a simmer, so when I took it out I lowered the fire to compensate and keep the rice at a steady light simmer. I let the rice go for about 12 minutes, then shut it off and let it rest with the lid on until finished, which only takes a couple of minutes. I stirred the diced tomato and reserved juice into the rice and plated it, plopping an egg yolk in the middle of the rice. The hot rice denatures the yolk slightly, changing it from a runny liquid to a capsule of creamy, rich sauce, which I imagined Heather stirring into the rice after making a flattering "ooh" sound. She probably didn't make the sound, but imagining it is what keeps me going some times.

We had some very nice imported prosciutto from Paulina Market, so I cut a slice of it into ribbons and draped them over the pilaf, then sprinkled some chopped alley parsley and alley mint over the whole plate. A quick drizzle of olive oil, some fresh cracked pepper and crunchy sea salt and the plate was done. The rice itself had much of the flavor of the stock and sofrito, the yolk made itself into a rich sauce, the prosciutto was prosciutto and therefore awesome, and the herbs, tomato, olive oil and pepper added a bright vegetal top note.

I made two plates, one for Heather and one for me, and when I stirred the egg yolk into the rice I made a little "ooh" sound, in imitation of the sound I imagined Heather would make when she did the same. This bit of business allowed me the satisfaction of inducing an "ooh," even if it was a self-satisfied one and not the genuine article. I'm too old to care about such distinctions and sometimes I just "ooh" at my own food. Fuck it, nobody's listening.


  1. pretty great....I'm gonna try this tonight.

    I'd love to read your process for making veggie stock sometime.

  2. I fruitlessly mutter "that was delicious, thank you" to myself after I have served my blood, sweat and glory meals to my non-food-loving partner, so I empathise with your imagined ooh sound reactions. Thanks for these entries, loving them, keep going.

  3. Two excellent explanations here: first the great metaphor of risotto and pilaf being like "soup and salad"; second blanching the tomato and then adding it at the end so it's fresh.

  4. I sometimes get an "ooo" out of my boyfriend followed by him dousing my perfectly-seasoned meal with any number of random sauces in the fridge - and this is what gets me - prior to even tasting the meal first! It's a crime I tell you!


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