A relative of pilaf, plov is a dish from Central Asia in which rice is cooked in a broth. The traditional version from Uzbekistan distinguishes itself in several regards:
- The base ingredients are fatty lamb cuts, rendered lamb fat, carrots, onions, garlic, hot pepper and spices. Depending on the region and season, each recipe adds other ingredients like barberries, quince, chickpeas, eggs or even dolmas (vine leaves stuffed with meat).
- The rice is not steamed but cooked in a stew composed of the other ingredients, making the dish a complete meal.
- The dish is prepared in a kazan, a large cooking pot more or less similar to a wok.
In his book Kazan, Mangal, and Other Manly Pleasures (sadly, only available in Russian), Stalik Khankishiev gives precise, abundantly illustrated recipes outlining the do’s and don’ts of plov making. The carrots must be cut into a julienne by hand. The ingredients must not be mixed while the plov is cooking. After rendering the lamb fat, the leftover chunks must be eaten with 100 grams of vodka!
While following the spirit of Khankishiev’s recipes, I am doing a few things differently. Cooking the lamb sous-vide gives results far superior to anything one could achieve in a wok alone, and all the meat juices are eventually added into the dish. “My” garlic confit produces very tender cloves that can be eaten easily. Instead of the Uzbek rice varieties, I am using paella rice, which absorbs considerably more liquid. When adding liquid to the rice, I prefer lamb stock to plain water. Finally, I am adding green peas for their delicious flavor and bright color (I blanch them separately, specifically to preserve their color).
This is supposed to be a greasy dish. However, if you want to reduce the amount of fat, you can replace the lamb breast with lamb shoulder, and reduce the proportion of rendered lamb fat.
Yields 4 servings
2 1/4 lb lamb breast
ground black pepper
1 sprig rosemary (3-4″ long) , roughly chopped
Season the lamb breast with salt on both sides. Using a blowtorch, char the meat on both sides until soft and brown. Season with black pepper and place into sous-vide pouches with the rosemary. Cook in a water bath at 151 F for 24 hours.
Uzbek lamb and green pea plov
Yields 4 servings
4 oz bomba rice
8 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 oz green peas
1 1/2 oz rendered lamb fat
4 oz onion, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp ground star anise
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground piment d’espelette
4 oz carrot, julienned
8 oz lamb stock (or water)
- Rinse the rice under running water, then place into a bowl and cover with hot water. Reserve.
- Place the garlic and olive oil in a small saucepan, cover and cook over very low heat for about 30 minutes, until completely tender. Drain the garlic and reserve. The olive oil can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week to be used in other recipes.
- Blanch the green peas in salted boiling water until soft, then shock in ice water, drain and reserve.
- Reheat the lamb breast sous-vide in the water bath until warm. Strain the liquid and reserve. Bone the lamb, discard the rosemary and reserve the meat.
- Heat a wok over high heat. Season the lamb meat with salt, sauté in the wok skin side down for about a minute, then flip and sauté for 30 seconds. Reserve the meat.
- Melt half of the lamb fat in the wok, add the onions, season with salt and cook over high heat until brown. Stir in the ground star anise, cumin, and piment d’espelette. Add the rest of the fat and the carrots, and cook until soft and golden brown, stirring regularly.
- Add the rice, the lamb stock and some more salt without stirring. Cook over high heat until the liquid is fully absorbed. Add the liquid from the lamb sous-vide, lower the heat to medium and simmer until the liquid is almost completely gone. Mix in the green peas, rectify the seasoning, turn off the heat, cover with a lid, and let stand for about 15 minutes.
- Arrange the meat and garlic on top of the dish, let rest covered for another minute, and serve.