A staple in Middle Eastern cuisine, Lebanese Rice Pilaf is made with vermicelli noodles toasted in clarified (rendered) butter.
When you are surrounded by incredible cooks on all sides of your family, you spend a lot of time in the kitchen. My mom’s family (the Lebanese side) are all within a 5 mile radius which means we get together all the time for Sunday dinners, family birthday parties, holidays (Jewish and Christian) and more.
Pictured above from left to right: Anne (youngest sister), my beautiful mom, Ema Ljuba (grandma on my dad’s side), Jessie (middle sister) and myself.
People often ask why I would ever move back to Michigan after living in Boston for 9 years and the answer is simple: family. I moved home so I could get back into the kitchen with my family. I’m excited to be partnering with Bon Appetit and Epicurious to talk about the importance of face-to-face time in the kitchen. If I’m being honest, there’s probably nothing more important in the world.
Lebanese Rice Pilaf is probably the second recipe I mastered growing up, shortly after my Aunt Vieve’s Classic Hummus with Toasted Pine Nuts. Why I waited over 4 years to share it with all of you is beyond me but please accept my sincerest apologies.
I plan to make up for lost time by giving you my family’s secrets to the perfect Lebanese Rice Pilaf: fluffy, nutty and slightly toasted.
Secret Number 1: You must soak the rice. I have vivid memories standing in the kitchen with my Aunt Paula and my mom watching them soak the rice. Traditionally they would use a bowl, rub the rice, rinse out the water and repeat with fresh water until it came out clear.
I find it’s easier to use a fine mesh strainer because I would always lose some of the rice when replacing the rinsing water in the bowl. The secret is to rub the rice between your fingers so that you remove as much of the excess starch as possible. By eliminating the surface starch you will end up with perfectly fluffy rice that doesn’t clump together.
Secret Number 2: Clarified Butter! We call it Syrian butter but you may know it as ghee or rendered butter. It’s all the rage with paleo folks but we’ve been eating it our whole life. My Aunt Paula makes it for us and you can easily make it yourself. Clarified butter gives the vermicelli and the rice that mouth-watering nutty, toasted flavor that you simply can’t get by using olive oil or regular butter.
Secret Number 3: Properly browning the vermicelli is an absolute must. I will never forget the time I was making rice with my mom and was just about to add the rice when she stopped me in my tracks. Turns out, I hadn’t let the vermicelli brown in the butter long enough. As you can see from the photo above, you’re looking for a deep, golden brown.
Keep a close eye because it can quickly go from brown to burnt (been there, done that) but I encourage you to wait as long as you can so that the vermicelli turns a deep brown. The more you brown it, the deeper the nutty, buttery flavor develops.
Who will you spend time with in the kitchen today?
Your fork is waiting.
Lebanese Rice Pilaf
- 1 1/2 cups white rice enriched parboiled long grain
- 1/4 cup clarified butter homemade or store-bought ghee
- 1/2 cup vermicelli pasta broken in 2 inch pieces
- 3 cups boiling water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- minced fresh parsley optional garnish
- Place the rice in a fine mesh strainer and rinse thoroughly using your fingers to rub off as much starch as possible. You'll know the rice is properly rinsed when the water comes out clear from the bottom. Set aside.
- In a large, deep pan heat the butter over medium heat until melted. Add the broken vermicelli pasta and brown, stirring frequently, until it is golden/dark brown. Be careful to not let burn - don't walk away from the pan. This takes about 4-5 minutes.
- Add rinsed rice to the pan and stir into the vermicelli and butter. Toast the rice for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Carefully pour boiling water into the pan and stir once. Add salt and pepper then stir again.
- Bring to a boil, stir once, then reduce heat to low and cover with a lid. Cook for 15 minutes.
- Remove pan from the heat and fluff rice with a fork before sprinkling with fresh parsley to serve.