What We Ate Part III: Basmati Rice, Pilaf Style

by Kay Steiger and Ben Miller

Basmati Rice, Pilaf Sytle

Basmati Rice, Pilaf Sytle

I always find it amazing how often rice gets screwed up on Top Chef (consider Eugene’s mishap last night). My guess is it’s because the chefs often write it off as an accompaniment that needs to get made, but doesn’t require any thought. While I agree rice isn’t as flashy, as entrees, bad rice can still easily screw up an entire dish because its taste and texture are crucial to fully enjoy something like Chicken Tikka Masala and Indian potato-stuffed flatbreads.

That’s why I really appreciate Kay’s help last night in preparing the basmati rice for last night. Without her help I assuredly would have screwed up the rice due to inattention.

Beyond that, I have to say I enjoyed the spices in the dish and it definitely went well with the Chicken Tikka Masala. My only error was I didn’t make enough. I doubled the recipe, which was not nearly enough rice for about seven people. So I’d say you should double it if serving it for about four and triple it for higher numbers.

Find out what happens to a cinnamon stick on high heat after the jump.

Basmati Rice, Pilaf Style

from Cooks Illustrated ($)

This recipe calls for green cardamom pods, which I eventually ended up finding in whole foods. I’m pretty sure, however, you could also use white ones, which according to my research are basically bleached that color. Ground cardamom would probably work too, though in that case I would add it after the rice is in.


  • 1 tablespoon neutral oil, like canola or vegetable
  • 3 inch piece cinnamon stick , halved
  • 2 green cardamom pods
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced onion
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 1/2 cups water


  1. Heat oil in a saucepan until it smokes (you’re going to want high heat and some open windows). Add the spices. The cinnamon stick will actually uncurl, which is pretty cool. Once the cardamom pods burst, add the onions and cook until they soften. Mix in the rice and let it get coated with the spice and onion mixture. This whole process should only take a few minutes.
  2. Add in the water and salt. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat. Simmer for about 15 minutes or so until the rice has absorbed all the water. Fluff, let sit for a few minutes while covered, and serve.

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