I've been curious about plov (based on the original Persian word pulaw), the signature Uzbeki rice and meat dish, ever since I tasted it a few years back at Ta'am Tov, a kosher Bukharian restaurant in New York's Diamond District. Many countries--Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, India, and Syria, to name a few--have a rice-and-meat dish with a phonetically similar name. Each country's plov is slightly different, with its own array of seasonings and additional ingredients.
On a recent trip to Tel Aviv, I happened upon a delicious plov recipe in an amusing and typically Israeli fashion. I had ducked into a little salon on Sheinkin Street for a pedicure and got to talking to Bella, my aesthetician. It turned out she was an Uzbeki immigrant who had run an Uzbeki restaurant in Tel Aviv. I took out a pen and paper and scribbled furiously as she rattled off ingredients and instructions for this tempting layered dish.
This recipe, although somewhat time-consuming, is fairly straightforward to execute. Onions, garlic, potatoes, carrots and meat are cooked in a deep skillet to which chick peas, rice, and cooking liquid are added. Once the chick peas and rice are cooked, the dish is inverted. The upper layer of rice becomes the bottom layer on a serving platter, which is topped with the fragrant, hearty stew.
2 Tablespoonscanola oil 2medium Idaho potatoes 1 1/2 lbscubed beef or lamb stew meat, preferably a bit fatty 1large onion, diced (about 3 cups) 1head garlic, peeled and minced 1 Tablespoonground cumin 2dried red peppers 10whole black peppercorns 1 teaspoons kosher salt 3large carrots, peeled, trimmed and cut into long thin strips 1 1/2 cupssoaked (uncooked) chick peas 5 1/2 cupsbeef stock or lamb stock (or water), plus more if necessary 2 cupswhite rice, rinsed until water runs clear kosher salt and pepper to taste
Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large braising pan or Dutch oven. Sear potatoes on all sides until light brown and crisp but still uncooked on the inside, about 1-2 minutes per side. Add meat and cook until browned on all sides, about 6-7 minutes total.
Add onions, garlic, cumin, dried pepper and peppercorns and cook until onions are soft and slightly browned, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook an additional 10 minutes. Uncover, raise heat to medium, add carrots and cook until slightly soft, about 7 minutes. Add chick peas, stock or water and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until chick peas are softer but still partially uncooked, about 25-30 minutes. Sprinkle rice on top of mixture; liquid should just cover rice (add a bit more stock if necessary). Simmer vigorously for about 20 minutes, until the rice is cooked and most of the liquid is absorbed. Reduce heat to very low, cover and steam dish an additional 15 to 20 minutes to further tenderize rice. Remove from heat and let rest for 5 minutes. To serve, transfer rice to a large serving platter. Taste stew and season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle stew over rice.
Adeena Sussman is a food writer and chef based in New York. She writes the bimonthly food column "Season to Taste" for Hadassah Magazine.