We’d just picked up fresh organic pecans at the CSA on Tuesday. They weren’t part of our share; instead, they were offered for sale by the Desert Ashram here in Tucson. Now, we’ve had these pecans before, and they’re very good; the Ashram folks offer them at pretty good prices, too. Especially seeing as they’re local and organic. That got us thinking about what to make with pecans.
Almost all of our pecans end up in batches of our Best-ever Scratched Granola, or in some sort of dessert item. This time, we wanted to use some in a main dish, or at least a side, and we thought of making Pecan Rice, which is normally a side dish, but we weren’t all that hungry, so we figured that, along with a dinner roll, or two, it should be a good amount for a light dinner.
We changed (slightly) a recipe that we’d found in Screen Doors and Sweet Tea, by Martha Hall Foose, leaving out the celery (we didn’t have any), and cooking the green onions along with the rice (in the original, they were tossed in at the same time as the pecans), because we’re not fans of raw onion.
We think that one thing you’ll like about this recipe is that it can all be made in a single skillet, plus it’s baked in the oven so you can get it going, and it finishes up pretty much by itself. Let’s scratch it up!
We used basmati rice, but any long grain (white) rice will work. Brown rice would probably work, too, but you’d have to adjust the baking times, probably to close to an hour. For the pecans, we mentioned that we’d picked up some at the CSA, but, for full disclosure, we didn’t use those, as we had another bag of pecans that was already open, so we used those, instead. Use a vegetable broth that you like. This year, we’ve saved up our vegetable trimmings in a small container and boiled them up once a week; that’s what we’ve used here.
Procedure in detail:
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Toast pecans. To make it a one-pan dish, we placed the pecans in the skillet lid and popped them in the oven to toast for 8 minutes. We thought about using a baking sheet, but why? We had a perfectly good, oven-safe lid right there waiting. After 8 minutes, we dumped them out on the cutting board to cool. Of course, while they were toasting we watched them like a hawk. Nuts can burn in a trice!
Toast rice. Melt the butter over medium heat in a large, oven-proof skillet with a tight-fitting lid. Once melted, add the rice and fry, stirring often, for about 4 minutes, or until the rice smells toasty and is a light golden brown.
Heat broth. While the rice was toasting, we popped the broth into a microwave-safe measuring cup, and put it in the microwave to heat. Again, this was to make for easy cleanup later. We could have used a saucepan to heat the broth, but why not make it really easy? In this case, the microwave is your friend.
Add broth and onion. Toss the onion in with the rice, give it a stir, then pour in the hot broth and stir to combine.
Bake. Cover the skillet and slide it into the oven to bake for 20 minutes. No peeking allowed. The rice cooks via steaming, so don’t remove the cover, or the steam will escape. Oh, if you peek once, it’ll be okay.
Add carrots and thyme. Remove the pan from the oven and add the carrots and thyme, stirring to mix thoroughly. Notice that the rice is, for the most part, done at this stage, but there might be a bit of liquid left in the pan.
Bake. This time, leave the cover off and return the rice to the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the liquid is completely absorbed.
Add pecans and season. Add those toasted pecans, (you didn’t eat them, did you?) and toss with a fork to combine. Okay, you can use a spoon, but be careful so you don’t break up the rice. That’s really easy to do if, like us, you’re using basmati rice. Once you’ve folded in the pecans, taste, and add salt and pepper as needed.
Serve. Here’s the thing that always gets us. When a skillet comes out of the oven, the handle is hot (we hear you saying, “well, duh”), but we never think of skillet handles as being hot, so, almost invariably, we touch it while we’re serving. Don’t let this happen to you. Place a hot pad over the handle.
This was okay, but not great. The rice was perfectly cooked, nice and light and fluffy, but it tasted greasy because of the butter in it. Sure, it tasted buttery, but we think that the recipe called for too much butter. Also, in this dish, the thyme is too strong a flavor for white rice and pecans; it stood out as a distinctive flavor, instead of melding to complement the other flavors. Even with the strong flavor of the thyme, the rest of the flavors in this dish were oddly bland, so either use a strong- flavored broth, or add something else for flavors. We think that this would be improved by adding mushrooms (we almost tossed in a few, but, regrettably, didn’t). We’ll give this three stars.