"Rice With Stuff In It"
It seems like nearly every cuisine has its own version of "rice with stuff in it:" pilaf, pilau, jollof rice, risotto, jambalaya, paella, biryani, and so many more. The uniting factor across these dishes is that the rice is prepared with other ingredients that give it more flavor rather than prepared on its own to be served along with other flavorful dishes. Sohla El-Waylly did a great video recently on the versatility of chicken and rice, which is in a similar vein to rice with stuff in it.
Rice with stuff in it is easy, relatively hands-off, delicious, and comforting. It's a dinner I make quite frequently because it's a simple technique I know well, but I can mix it up with whatever flavors I am craving at the moment.
I'll share the general process I use, which can be adapted with whatever seasonings, veggies, and protein you like. The pictures show a more specific process for a version of rice with stuff in it that I made recently using andouille sausage and Creole-inspired flavors - the dish vaguely emulates the flavors of jambalaya, but it's not jambalaya. If you're interested in making authentic jambalaya, check out legend Leah Chase's recipe here.
Here's the general process:
1) Sear or brown your protein in a large pan. Use a pan that has a lid, but don't put the lid on at this point. I like to use a braiser, but a dutch oven is fine too.
For this recipe, I used andouille sausage.
2) Remove the protein once it has browned. Add oil and chopped aromatics (things like onions, celery, shallots, carrots, or peppers - aka soffritto, sofrito, or mirepoix) and a splash of water or stock to deglaze the pan. Don't forget salt! (Deglazing = scraping up all the browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, which are very flavorful!) When the veggies begin to soften, add a knob of butter.
Red onion, celery, and green bell pepper went in at this point along with chicken stock. I added the celery leaves toward the end - celery leaves are full of flavor!
3) Add your spices and other seasonings. This could include dried spices or herbs, tomato paste, fermented things like miso, etc. You want to season the aromatics pretty heavily, because this flavor will need to be enough to also flavor the rice you'll add. If you want to add other vegetables, add them at this point. (If you plan to add fast-cooking veggies, like spinach, wait until later.)
Seasoned with kosher salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, garlic powder, Old Bay, and tomato paste.
4) Add your rice to the pan and let it toast a bit and get fully covered with the seasonings. (You can also use other grains!)
5) Add stock or water. You'll want to add the amount of liquid you'd use to cook the amount of rice you added if you were cooking it normally, plus a few tablespoons extra since the vegetables will absorb some of it as well.
I added the celery leaves along with chicken stock.
6) Bring the liquid to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for about 20 minutes.
7) Once the rice is fully cooked, fluff it with a fork. Mix in your protein and any other quick-cooking vegetables, and then re-cover the pan (off the heat) for about 10 minutes for a final steam. Garnish with fresh herbs and a spritz of something acidic (think citrus juice) and serve.