Cooking time: Under an hour
Plov is the Uzbek national dish. It varies by region and is also found in other central Asian countries. The most popular version is that made with mutton or lamb and rice and flavored with onions and cumin. Other variations include shuyud plov (dill), kishmish plov (grapes), sudlu ash (milk), giyma plov (finely ground meat, potatoes and chick peas), sabzi plov (green vegetables) and fisinjan (grenadine, walnuts and chicken).
Some Uzbeks will tell you that a good plov should contain as much onion as meat! So in this spirit, plov is often served with a salad of thinly sliced onion.
The cooking utensil is called a kazanchik; the skimmer a shumovka. By the way, here's a little hint: some cooks place a lipioshka, a big unleavened flatbread in the bottom of the pot to keep the rice from sticking. Others stick a clove of garlic into the middle.
There are probably as many versions in Uzbekistan as there are cooks - the variations are endless, both as regards ingredients and technique.
- Sauté the onions in a heavy covered pan over low heat. This is where you'll find many differences in technique: some cooks like to brown the onion to give more flavor to the rice and cooking oil.
- Rinse the rice in several changes of water: this is the secret to obtaining fluffy distinct grains of rice and a plov with a nice texture; otherwise it will be heavy and sticky.
- Sprinkle the rice into the pot with the onions. Shake the pot to mix and allow the grains to be moistened with the liquid. Add the spices. Pour in the boiling water. The water should cover the rice by about 3 cm (1 1/2"). Stick the clove of garlic into the middle. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and cook over low heat for 20 minutes or until the rice is cooked. At this point the rice should not have absorbed all the liquid.
- Meanwhile, cut the chicken into cubes and sauté in a mixture of butter (5 tsp.) and oil, with the raisins, apricots and almonds. Season with salt and pepper.
- Place all the ingredients in the kazanchik without mixing. Continue cooking over low heat until the chicken has cooked in the steam. Let rest for about 10 minutes with the heat off. Serve hot.
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