My first Sous Chef position was at The Greek in Tribeca, where I learned amazing Mediterranean Cuisine through a great mentor - Chef Pavlos Xenopoulos.
To give you a visual this is where My Big Fat Greek Wedding meets Hell’s Kitchen!
This was my first official Chef title, it was in a Michelin recommended restaurant, in Tribeca NYC… and then it’s GREEK! If you’re not familiar with the language, traditions, culture, and the food in general - a “fake it til you make it” situation, this was not!
“Bella…” Chef called me (unless I was in trouble, then it was a CAAAYLEEENAAAA heard through the entire restaurant) - “There is a reason they say it’s like trying to speak Greek! It’s not easy!” Well this maybe true, but for your sake, I’ll teach you an unintimidating approach to the Greek so you can show off your skills at your next Sunago.
Prep Time: 15 min Cook time: 20 min Servings: 4-6 sides
- 1 cup long grain White Rice
- 2 cups Chicken Broth - Not WATER! That would not be Pilaf
- ½ cup finely chopped White or Yellow Onion (really fine because you want it to dissolve unlike the rest of the veg’s)
- ½ cup chopped Celery
- ½ cup chopped Carrot
- 1 cup chopped Spinach
- 2 Tbsp chopped Sun Dried Tomatoes
- 4 Tbsp Unsalted Butter * Do not replace with oil… it will be greasy, and the texture will not be correct
- 1 Tbsp chopped Dill
- 1 Tbsp chopped Parsley
- Salt & White pepper - or black
- Lemon Zest (if you don’t have it's not end of world but it’s great with the Yogurt!)
- Greek Yogurt
- Fresh chopped Dill or Parsley
*If you do not have a Chicken broth and end up using a bouillon of sorts, be careful with the salt, and note it will be much a brighter shade of yellow.
HERE WE GO….
In a Large enough pot, melt your butter - not brown, over Med-High temperature.
Add the Onion, Celery, & Carrots - SWEAT the veggies, not sautee not caramelizing… sweating to get slightly tender. Salt and pepper now…
Stir in the rice. Let it warm up & soak in the butter.
Now Add ½ a cup of the broth. Let it heat up while the rice soaks it in for a minute before adding the rest of the broth.
Pilaf in Greek cuisine is fluffy and soft, not sticky, not creamy like a risotto, and it’s cooked in meat broth - vegetarians can use Veg broth, but NOT water. (I make my own Chicken broth, which I’ll show you soon). Your adding the broth in enough to heat up & be soaked in, but not until it’s absorbed, as above.
Once it’s warm, add the rest of the broth. Crank up the heat to High, bringing it to a boil.
While waiting add the rest of the vegetables & herbs.
Bring to a boil.
Now drop the heat down low to a mild simmer & cover… check on it to make sure it’s not boiling but slightly bubbling. About 10 minutes. Then…
Same temperature but another 5 minutes steaming out until it looks like this...
Now this should still be wet, which is exactly what you want. If it still has liquid cover it for a few more minutes until it does look like this.
Turn off the heat. Mix together gently, then leave it alone. The rice will soak in the butter sauce & finish cooking on its own in the next few minutes.
If you’re not serving immediately pull it out to stop the cooking. This is an easy and excellent dish to do in advance which most don’t think of when they think rice… but it’s true and really turns out much nicer. This is how we do it in the restaurants and for large batches.
Either way, don’t fuss with it too much because it will become mushy. You must let it sit for a few minutes.
If you’re serving later, you can throw this pan or a pot like above in the oven at *375 for 10 minutes, just make sure to cover it so it doesn’t dry out. Or you can simply microwave for a short period of time.
Don’t forget to season again if you need to. Final touches and garnish is Plain Greek Yogurt and Lemon Zest. It’s the extra little touches that will take your food from good to amazing!
Rice Pilaf with Chicken Souvlaki...
Greeks are incredibly passionate and boisterous people with their Speech and their laughter, about their culture and their food! They cook what they feel. I had to make this dish every single day from scratch for the restaurant (this amount x10 everyday / 6 days a week!), until I got it right… and then everyday after... because I mastered it!
There isn’t a recipe book or more than a couple notes, which are written entirely in Greek, in The Greek kitchen. Everyone in that kitchen speaks either Greek or Spanish… I speak neither. I have never learned more about being a Chef, about food, and about cooking than my Greek immersion.
By the time I left The Greek, my language wasn’t any better… but my God my food was!