Essence of Chicken Pilaf
120 Min

Essence of Chicken Pilaf

Persian reign over India lasted several hundred years. In the course of time, Indian and Persian cooking techniques merged, and one of the many dishes created in the kitchens of the royal emperors was the pilaf (or pulao, as they call it in India). Cooking rice with meat or meat stock is not uncommon; however, when done with saffron, cardamom and cinnamon, it imparts a lingering fragrance. I love the taste of chicken stock but not necessarily the animal “smell,” which aromatic spices help mask. This rice tastes even better the next day.

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Cook Time

120 Minutes



Step 1
Rinse the basmati rice in tap water 2 times. Soak the rice for 2 to 3 hours.
Step 2
Combine the chicken bones, carrot, celery, cardamom, cinnamon, black peppercorns, saffron, salt, and 8 cups of water in a large Dutch oven. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat, and simmer the stock for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Step 3
Add the drained rice and bring the mixture to a boil again. Turn the heat down and cover with a tight lid and let the rice cook for 8 to 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the pilaf rest for 15 minutes. Remove the bones if desired.
Step 4
Garnish with cilantro, pumpkin seeds, and pistachios.
2 cups basmati rice
1 pound chicken bones (preferably back and breast cages)
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into long, thick pieces
3 celery stalks, trimmed and cut in half
10 to 12 whole cardamom pods
2 to 3 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
Generous pinch of saffron
1 1/2 tablespoons sea salt
3 tablespoons ghee, melted
Half bunch of cilantro
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup pistachios

Notes & Variations

  • Basmati rice is an unpolished long-grain rice. Be careful when rinsing or cooking it to not break the kernels.
  • The whole cardamom and black peppercorns become soft in the cooking and are edible, adding a mild yet delicious spicy bite.
  • Pilaf is also delicious with lamb, beef, or oxtail bones.
120 Min

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History of Rice in India

In India, rice is revered as more than a grain. It is said in the Vedas that the entire universe is held within each grain. A grain endures the seven stages of life, from seed to sprout, to seedling, young plant, mature plant, flowering plant, to fruitful plant. Consuming rice is believed to create a cosmic connection with divinity, and religious ceremonies and celebrations will usually include rice. It is the first food given to a baby and the last to honor the dead.

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