Crispy Cinnamon Beef Rice

September 16, 2020
Photo by Rocky Luten
Author Notes

Hibernation is truly possible with this dinner, since I’m guessing pretty much everyone will have two of the three main ingredients in their fridge or pantry. Upon the discovery of leftover white rice on a fridge raid, my thoughts always have and always will turn to this simple dish, inspired by the traditional Lebanese beef and rice dish, hashweh, as well as riz bi lahme.

Here, ground beef is spiced and crisped to no return with lots of cinnamon and pomegranate molasses. Then, the aforementioned rice is added in and finds its way to the bottom of the pan to pick up scrapings and aromas, sections of it getting a golden crunch of their own. It’s finished with a squeeze of lemon and a full cup of fresh parsley. And although not quite traditional in my Syrian household growing up, a soft-boiled or fried egg thrown on top would never be unwelcome.

Once I get it going, I know I can switch to autopilot for the day, knowing exactly how I want it to and how it will turn out in the end. I can let the sounds and sizzling of meat crisping fill the apartment, only having to idly mix or scrape the pan once in a while, in a cloudy haze of cinnamon powder. When my husband finishes work, we sit and eat the very dish we knew exactly we needed. —Emanuelle Lee

  • Prep time 5 minutes
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • Serves 4
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more as needed
  • 1 pound 80 percent lean ground beef
  • 2 pinches kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced thinly
  • 4 cups cooked jasmine or basmati rice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped
  • 4 to 6 lemon wedges
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts or toasted and chopped almonds
In This Recipe
  1. In a large frying pan, (preferably nonstick) heat 3 tablespoons olive oil on medium-high heat. Add the ground beef and season it well with a pinch of salt and pepper. Thoroughly break it apart with a wooden spoon, add 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon, and mix. Allow any liquid in the pan to evaporate, then leave the meat to become dark golden and crispy on the bottom of the pan, about 6 minutes. Crisp up the rest of the meat in this way, breaking it apart as needed. It should take another 10 to 15 minutes to reach full crispiness. Check on it and give it a stir once in a while.
  2. Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and add the onions. Season with another big pinch of salt and the paprika. Keep them to one side of the pan and do not mix them into the meat until they have softened a lot, about 10 minutes. Once the onions are soft and golden brown, and the meat is crispy, stir through the remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and the 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses, allowing it to caramelize a little.
  3. Turn the heat down to low. Remove half of the beef mixture from the pan and set aside. Pour the rice into the pan and mix with the meat that’s left in there. Drizzle another tablespoon of olive oil around the bottom of the pan and spread and flatten the rice out. Leave it to become crispy on the bottom, about 10 minutes. Once the rice has formed a golden crust on the bottom of the pan, mix through the rest of the beef mixture into the still-fluffy rice.
  4. To serve, mix the parsley through the rice. Generously squeeze lemon on top, scatter the toasted nuts, and add another generous drizzle of pomegranate molasses. Serve with more lemon wedges.

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