In “Vol. II Treasured Recipes–from the Kitchens of Members and Friends of the Hayward Women’s Golf Club,” Marge Gogian suggested that the shish kebab grilled by George the Turk should be served with rice pilaf. She did not give a recipe for the pilaf, but it was probably similar to what I call The Turk’s Pilaf, a plain side dish designed to enhance rather than compete with the entrée.
The Turk’s Pilaf is made with bulgur or cracked wheat simmered in broth and seasoned only with salt and pepper. Plain rice pilaf is made in much the same way, though in its simplest version, the rice is cooked in water rather than broth.
Here is a simple rice pilaf recipe. It makes four generous servings of a flavorful side dish that goes well with shish kebab, steak, grilled chicken or salmon.
1 cup long grain white rice
1 T butter
3 T olive oil
2 cups chicken broth
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
Rinse the rice well in cold water and allow it to drain thoroughly in a colander. Melt the butter and olive oil in a heavy-bottom covered saucepan or a skillet with a tight-fitting lid. Heat the broth until it is nearly boiling.
Put the rice into the pan and raise the heat to moderately high. Sauté the rice, stirring constantly, for three or four minutes until it just begins to turn gold. Reduce the heat and carefully stir in the hot broth.
Stir in the salt and pepper and reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer the rice until it has absorbed all the broth, usually fifteen to twenty minutes. You can check how the rice is doing, but DO NOT STIR the rice. When the rice is nearly done, you will see little holes in the rice made by steam escaping from the bottom of the pan and you can gently tip the pan to see if all the broth has been absorbed.
Remove the pan from the heat, take the lid off and stretch a dry tea towel over the pan. Replace the lid and let the pilaf rest for five to ten minutes. Then fluff it with a fork and serve.
NOTES: If you want to be fancy, garnish the rice with toasted slivered almonds, pine nuts or chopped mint leaves.
The grains of rice should not stick together. Stirring the rice while it is cooking releases starch that glues the rice together as does the steam that condenses once you remove the pan from the heat. The towel keeps water from dripping onto the rice as the steam condenses on the lid. So don’t stir and use the towel.
George the Turk was known for telling everyone “Don’t worry ‘bout.” I used to think that he used the expression only as his way of making guests feel welcome until I bussed tables at the Turk’s Inn one New Year’s Eve.
As you would expect, it was busy. George was everywhere—greeting guests at the door, ushering them into the Harem Lounge where three bartenders labored to keep up with the orders, circulating among the tables in the Sultan and Kismet Rooms, trotting up the stairs from the basement with pans full of steaks or other items from the coolers, and running through the kitchen to make sure that everything was under control. Even the busboy and the dishwasher got the same good advice.
Keep it in mind when you are making pilaf. Even if it’s not perfect, it will taste just fine, so “Don’t worry ‘bout!”