Learn the trick to crispy brown rice pilaf from ‘The Happy Cook,’ plus how to meet Daphne Oz in Austin

This crispy brown rice pilaf from Daphne Oz's "The Happy Cook" also has sausage and dates. Contributed by Amy Neunsinger

This crispy brown rice pilaf from Daphne Oz’s “The Happy Cook” also has sausage and dates. Contributed by Amy Neunsinger

Parboiled rice might make you think of quickie boxed rice from the store, but in her new book “The Happy Cook” (HarperCollins, $32.50) Daphne Oz shares her technique for making parboiled brown rice for a crispy brown rice pilaf.

After parboiling the rice, you gently sauté and steam it, but the key is not stirring or moving the bottom layer of rice during those last two steps. If you can resist, you’ll end up with a crisp bottom layer, the same socarrat you hope to find in a paella. Don’t skip the final 5-minute steam off the heat, she says. It’s crucial for perfectly fluffed grains.

UPDATE: I just found out that Oz will be in Austin for a book signing and talk at noon on Saturday, Nov. 5, at Williams-Sonoma, 9722 Great Hills Trail. The event is free, and you can find out more about it here.

Crispy Brown Rice Pilaf with Merguez and Dates

1 1/2 cups long-grain brown rice
3 tsp. kosher salt, divided
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 merguez sausages
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups chicken broth or water (or a combination)
1/2 cup chopped, pitted Medjool dates (about 8 dates)
1/2 cup slivered almonds

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the rice and 2 teaspoons salt and cook, uncovered, until the rice is cooked on the outside but still quite raw on the inside, about 20 minutes. Drain in a sieve and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Turn the rice out onto a rimmed baking sheet lined with a clean kitchen towel to cool and dry.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Squeeze the sausage out of its casings (discard the casings) and cook until it is browned, stirring often to crumble, about 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the sausage to a large plate and set it aside (you’ll use any fat that collects on the plate later).

Add the onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the pan and cook, stirring often, until the onion starts to brown around the edges, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the butter. When it melts, add the parboiled rice and stir to quickly coat. Let it warm for 1 minute, then add the broth and/or water, dates, almonds and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring the liquid to a simmer, still over medium heat.

Use the end of a wooden spoon to poke about 6 holes through the rice. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered and without stirring, until the liquid level has reduced and doesn’t rise above the rice, 8 to 10 minutes.

Cover the pan and reduce the heat to low. Cook until all the liquid is absorbed, 10 to 15 minutes more. Remove from the heat. Remove the lid, cover the pot with a piece of paper towel, then return the lid to hold it in place. Let the rice sit covered and steaming for 5 minutes.

Return the sausage and accumulated juices to the pilaf and fluff the rice with a fork, taking care to leave the crispy layer of rice at the bottom of the pan intact. Turn the rice out onto a platter. Use a spatula or wooden spoon to scrape up the crispy, browned bits at the bottom of the pan. Serve them on top of the rice. Serves 4.

— From “The Happy Cook: 125 Recipes for Eating Every Day Like It’s the Weekend” by Daphne Oz (HarperCollins, $32.50)


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