Toasted Pecan Rice Pilaf

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This is a quick and easy rice dish you can whip together on a weeknight in short time.

It’s packed with buttery, toasted pecans and bits of fried ham. A fresh bay leaf and pinch of clove give it a distinct and warm spiciness.

I used the same absorbtion-cooking technique that I use to cook plain basmati rice:

+Bring the rice/water to a rolling boil

+Lower the heat and cover tightly

+Simmer covered for about 5 minutes

+Turn the heat off completely and let the rice sit (covered) for about 20 minutes to finish cooking

+Fluff and serve

I like to serve it as a side for sauteed chicken breasts or roasted cornish hens. Start the rice, cook your chicken, and it’ll be done by the time your bird is. The pecans also pair really well with fried pork chops.

Ingredients for toasted pecan rice pilaf

I made this pilaf with water. If you use stock, however, start with a low-sodium brand, because the ham will add some salt to the rice. (You can always add more at the end.)

For the ham, use your favorite brand of cooked ham steak.

For the basmati rice, I love Royal brand basmati rice, which we buy in embarrassingly large sacks at Costco. (If you have the room to store it and serve rice often, it’s more economical than buying smaller packages.)

Toasted Pecan Rice Pilaf

1 Tbls. olive oil
1 Tbls. butter
3/4 cup pecans, roughly chopped
3/4 cup cooked ham, diced
2 cups basmati rice
4 cups water or low-sodium chicken stock
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. kosher salt (omit if using chicken stock)
1 fresh bay leaf
freshly cracked black pepper
pinch of ground clove
butter + minced parsley, for garnish

Put the olive oil and butter in a medium-sized pot over medium heat until the butter melts.

Add the pecans.

Stir to coat. Cook for a minute or two, until the pecans are wonderfully fragrant and start to brown. (Watch your heat closely here, and turn it down if they start to burn.)

Toss in the ham.

Stir to combine. Cook over medium heat until the ham is lightly browned.

Add the rice and stir to combine with the pecans and ham. Cook for a minute or two, stirring, to get the rice cooking.

Pour in the water or chicken stock. (I used water here.) Give the pot a stir to mix. Scrape at the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to loosen any brown bits (that’s pure flavor!).

Add the garlic, onion, salt (leave this out for now if you used stock instead of water), bay leaf, pepper, and clove.

Stir to combine. Then raise the heat to high and bring your mixture to a boil.

When it comes to a boil, drop the heat to low. Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid. Simmer like this�untouched�for about 5-7 minutes.

At that point, uncover your pot. The rice should look about like this. (If it doesn’t, cover it back up and cook another minute or two, then check again.)

All the liquid should look like it’s been absorbed. Look for tiny steam holes in the surface of the rice, like this:

When you see those, turn the heat off completely. Cover the pot back up and let it sit on the stove, untouched, for about 20 minutes to finish cooking.

Uncover the pot and scrape a fork through the rice to fluff it up.

Serve topped with a little butter and parsley.

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Jessie Cross is a cookbook author and creator of The Hungry Mouse, a monster online food blog w/500+ recipes. When she's not shopping for cheese or baking pies, Jessie works as an advertising copywriter in Boston. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband and two small, fluffy wolves.