Plov may look like just a meaty rice pilaf (ok, it is a meaty rice pilaf), but when it's done right, it's amazing. The rice itself is so flavorful that when you get a bite of meat, it's like a tasty surprise. And don't be put off by the time it takes. As I've learned over the years, if your Russian food doesn't take all afternoon to make, it probably won't taste very authentic. I've tried many plovs over the years (and my husband even more so!) and this one does it right.
(adapted from Olga's Flavor Factory)
1 lb beef chuck (you can also use lamb), cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4-1/3 cup canola oil
2 onions, chopped
4 carrots, peeled and shredded
salt and pepper to taste
3 dry bay leaves
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2-1 3/4 cup water
3 cups basmati rice
4 cups hot water
1 head of garlic
1) Blot the meat chunks with a paper towel until they are dry from any excess moisture and set aside.
2) Using a large pot or Dutch oven, heat 1/4 to 1/3 cup oil (enough to generously cover the bottom of the pot) over high heat until it is smoking hot.
3) Add the meat to the oil and cook 5-7 minutes until the meat is a deep golden brown color, but not cooked through. Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion; cook for 5-7 minutes more until the onions are tender and slightly golden.
4) Add the shredded carrots, stirring to combine, and season with salt, pepper, bay leaves, cumin and paprika. Cook for 5 minutes more, until the carrots become tender.
5) Pour enough water in the pot to barely cover the meat mixture, 1 1/2- 1 3/4 cup. Cover with a lid and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the meat is tender.
6) Meanwhile, while the meat is simmering, rinse the rice thoroughly. This is done by placing the rice in a large bowl. Fill the bowl with water, about 2 inches higher than the level of rice. Using your fingers, move the rice around in the water. The water should become cloudy. Drain the water and repeat until the water stays clear. After rinsing the rice, set it in a bowl of water to soak and set aside.
7) When the beef is tender, drain the water from the rice and spread the rice out evenly on top of the beef mixture. DO NOT MIX TOGETHER. Pour in about 4 cups of hot or boiling water, enough to cover the rice by about 1 to 1 1/2 inches. Season with salt. Bring water to a boil, reduce heat to medium-high and cook, uncovered, until much of the water is absorbed.
8) Insert a whole garlic head into the middle of the rice and make a few holes in the rice, to help the water cook out faster (I use the handle of a long wooden spoon to create the holes); cover the pot, reduce the heat to low and cook for another 10-15 minutes, just until the rice is cooked through.
9) Take out the roasted garlic and mix the whole dish together, incorporating the beef, onion, and carrots with the rice. You can press some of the roasted garlic through a garlic press and add it to the rice, as well. Serve hot and enjoy!
*Plov freezes well!