Brown Rice Pilaf with Two Mushrooms

MAKES: 4 servings

TIME: About 1 hour, largely unattended

You can substitute brown rice for white in any pilaf, simply by using parcooked brown rice as described in the sidebar on Brown Rice. But cooking the raw brown rice in oil first, then adding the onion and other vegetables, gives it incredible flavor and decreases the overall cooking time somewhat without making the onion mushy. By beginning this way, you can incorporate any of the variations or suggestions for the white rice pilafs, adjusting the amount of liquid and the time accordingly.

I make another change here, though it isn’t essential: Cooking the shiitake mushrooms separately makes them crisp and adds a nice textural contrast. But you could just add the shiitakes to the simmering rice during the last 10 or 15 minutes of cooking.

Brown basmati is definitely the way to go here; not that other rices are unusable, but the aroma of brown basmati sauting in olive oil will just knock you out. If you want to use white basmati, use 11/2 cups with the same amount of liquid and decrease the cooking time in Step 2 to 20 minutes.

1/2 cup dried porcini or other mushrooms

21/2 cups vegetable stock, Mushroom Stock, or water

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (or half oil and half butter)

11/4 cups brown basmati rice

1 cup sliced onion

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

11/2 cups sliced shiitake mushroom caps (reserve the stems for stock if you like)

Combine the dried porcini with the stock in a small saucepan and warm while you begin cooking the rice. Add half the oil to a deep skillet with a lid over medium-high heat. When hot, add the rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is extremely aromatic and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.

Toss in the onion and the softened porcini (hold off on the stock) and continue to cook, sprinkling with salt and pepper and stirring occasionally, until the onion begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the liquid all at once, adjust the heat so that the mixture bubbles very gently, and cover. Total cooking time from this point will be about 40 minutes; check after 20 and 30 minutes to make sure there’s enough liquid and, if there is not, add about 1/2 cup more.

About 15 minutes before the pilaf is done, put the remaining oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the shiitakes, along with a large pinch of salt and some pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms brown on the edges, about 10 minutes.

When the rice is tender, uncover and cook over medium heat until almost all the liquid is gone. Stir in the browned shiitakes, taste and adjust the seasoning, and serve immediately.