The first time my mom made my husband pilau we were having a party at my place in NYC. There were around 25 people over, celebrating, drinking wine and eating standing up because I didn’t have enough chairs for everyone. The layout of my apartment is pretty open with the kitchen, dining, and living rooms all visible. No joke, at the end of his 4th helping of the dish, my husband stood up abruptly, pronounced my mom had purposefully “roofied” him…and promptly went to sleep on the couch in front of the other 20-some-odd people!
In the spirit of dishes that work well for the holidays, I thought I would put this recipe out since it’s a delicious communal or even potluck dish. Hanging with my parents this weekend meant my mom and I were seriously throwing down in the kitchen, and pilau was definitely on the menu. Typically, there’s so much “a little of this, a little of that” that it’s pretty close to impossible to get a solid recipe out of the whole affair. But I managed to pry this one out. And even with this dish, it takes a bit of intuition and a little praying to get the beef and the rice to be cooked perfectly at the same time. But it is so worth it. For me, it’s old school comfort food, a taste memory that dates back to my early childhood.
This version is a true combination of my mom and I. The ingredients are largely hers, but I changed the technique to try to create the best textures and flavors possible. I made a raw mango salad to go along with it, which provides the perfect cool and acidic balance to the warmly spiced rice and beef that melts in your mouth. Enjoy! —aliyaleekong