For many cooks, the simplest of dishes—steamed rice—is also the whitest of whales. We combine rice and water in a saucepan, apply low heat, and pray that the result won’t be too gummy or too dry. Our prayers are usually unanswered.
But there’s a technique that yields both extremely consistent results and more flavorful rice: pilaf. Following a method that mimics risotto, you start by sweating a base of aromatics (usually onion), then adding rice and toasting it until it’s translucent. This important step both helps lock in the rice’s starch and add a slightly nutty flavor. Then it’s up to chicken stock (or your cooking liquid of choice) to do work.