I recently got called on my cooking BS.
“Rice pilaf,” I exclaimed, “is purely a dish of western creation.” You see, I received formal training in classical French cooking techniques and . . . well . . . all the best food and cooking techniques come from France. Right?! I was caught in my little white lie by two very talented female chefs who replied, “That doesn’t sound quite right.” They were right, I was wrong. Um, it seems I forgot one part, the one where Everyone-Else-In-The-World cooks too. To state it correctly, Rice Pilaf is a Middle Eastern dish and our word Pilaf comes from the Turkish word Pilav. Oops, my bad.
Now to the title of this piece and how Pilav became Pilaf. In 1533, at the age of fourteen, Catherine de Medici of Italy married Henry II, king of France. Henry, to our benefit you’ll soon discover, was much more interested in his mistress Diane de Poitiers than his new bride. Catherine as a result was excluded from politics and all things court like. Instead of staying by her husband’s side she traveled the country with her entourage. Here comes the good part. The Italians, being the great travelers and traders they are, brought back not only goods for commerce but great heaps of culture from around the globe. In Catherine’s entourage were chefs schooled in cross cultural cooking techniques and the dishes they inspired. As they progressed around France, Catherine chefs would require the assistance of local cooks to prepare the Queen’s meals. Catherine moved on but the cooking techniques remained, Pilaf included. While there has been some trifling debate as to whether Catherine actually had this much effect on French cuisine, those of us who study it can precisely time its rise to the Renaissance period. So there!
Did she or didn’t she? I believe she did. Is it wrong of me to be grateful of the King’s infidelity?
Eat Well and Smile Often,
p.s. I thought all the best chefs were men! Ooops, my bad.
Simple Rice Pilaf
1 cup Rice
3 Tbsp Butter or olive oil
2 cups Water or broth
2 Tbsp Parsley, chopped
Place in a sauce pan water or broth and bring to a boil. Add a pinch of salt if water only.
In a sauté pan heat butter or olive oil over medium heat and add rice. Cook for about 4 minutes.
Add rice to boiling liquid, stir, reduce heat to very low and cover. Cook until all the liquid is gone. Remove from heat, mix in parsley and serve.
Originally posted on April 30, 2012