Thursday, February 18, 2021

Plov, One-pot chicken and rice dish

 Plov is a rice pilaf-style dish that became popular in the Soviet Union by way of Uzbekistan. In truth, this dish’s origin has a longer story, and one with a Jewish connection. The earliest version of rice pilaf is documented by a 10th-century Persian scholar, and Persian cuisine is well known for its glorious rice dishes and tahdig. Plov can also look like pilau in the UK, pulao in India, and even paella in Spain. Ultimately, there are countless cultures that have some version of a one-pot rice and meat dish. So, what makes plov different?

Plov’s popularity in Russia can be traced back to at least the time of Alexander the Great. Upon returning from Central Asia to Macedonia, his soldiers were said to have brought back plov as one of their new favorite foods. The existence of this dish in Central Asia has a distinct tie to the Jewish community there. The Bukharian Jews of Central Asia are Mizrahi Jews whose lineage goes back to the time of King David, and Ancient Persia. During the reign of Persia’s Cyrus the Great, Jews made their way to Central Asia and formed a community where they eventually spoke a dialect of Persian called Bukhori. Central Asian versions of plov, particularly the Uzbeki variety, were later popularized across all Soviet republics during the time of the Soviet Union.

Soviet-style plov is most commonly made with lamb as its meat, carrots as its vegetable, and is typically spiced with cumin and coriander. However, you will find a wide range of plov made with different kinds of meat or poultry, spices, and even the addition of dried fruits or nuts. I prefer to keep plov simple with traditional flavors. I use chicken thighs for their ease of availability and affordability, and I add loads of carrots and onions, which seem to magically disappear into the rice once cooked. Garlic, bay, cumin, and coriander perfume this plov.

This dish is a one-pot meal. Each element takes a little time, but once all of the ingredients are prepped, it comes together quickly and then gets popped into the oven to finish cooking. It reheats and freezes well, and is hearty and filling. Plov is the kind of comfort food that can be made as much for a special occasion as for a warming weekend dinner.

Chicken Plov

Serves 4-6 


  • 2 cups Basmati or Jasmine rice

  • 3¼ cups boiling chicken stock or water

  • 1½ lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs

  • 3-4 (½ lb.) carrots

  • 2 medium small yellow onions

  • 2 small heads of garlic

  • 2-3 bay leaves (ideally fresh)

  • 1½ teaspoons ground cumin

  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander

  • 1 teaspoon paprika

  • ½ teaspoon aleppo pepper or pepper flake (optional)

  • salt and pepper

  • Oil, for cooking


Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Rinse the rice well, then place it in a bowl of cold water to soak as you prepare the other ingredients. This helps remove excess starch and makes for fluffy rice.

Cut the chicken thighs into 2”-3” pieces, and salt with 1½ teaspoons of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Reserve.

Peel and julienne (matchstick cut) the carrots. Alternatively, you can use the medium holes of a box grater, or the shredder attachment on a food processor to grate the carrot. Peel and halve the onions, then slice them thin. Halve the garlic heads crosswise and reserve.

 On medium-high heat, generously drizzle oil into the bottom of a large Dutch oven, or a wide heavy-bottomed deep skillet (at least 12” wide). If you do not have either, you can brown the chicken and vegetables in any large skillet, and then transfer everything to a large ceramic or pyrex casserole dish. Brown the seasoned chicken thigh pieces on each side, then remove and reserve.

Lower the heat to medium, and into the same Dutch oven or skillet, add the onions and carrots. Generously season with salt and pepper, and sauté for 5-6 minutes or until softened. Add the cumin, coriander, paprika, and pepper to the onions and carrots and sauté for an additional minute. Drain the rice that has been soaking, and then add it to the carrots and spice mixture. Sauté and stir for 1-2 more minutes, until the rice is well coated in the mixture. At this point, if you are using a casserole dish, transfer the mixture to the dish. If you are using a Dutch oven or deep skillet, continue the next steps in the same pot.

Add the chicken to the rice mixture, then nestle the garlic heads and bay leaves into the rice. Pour the boiling stock or water over the rice and chicken mixture (the liquid must be at a boil when added in order to cook the rice properly). Make sure everything is covered by at least ¼” of liquid. If not, add an additional ¼ cup of boiling water or stock.

Cover the Dutch oven or skillet with a lid, or cover the casserole dish tightly with foil. Place in the oven for 50 minutes. Remove from the oven, and leave the plov covered for an additional 10 minutes.

Once it has rested, fluff the rice just before serving. There may be delicious browned crispy bits of rice on the edges. If your rice still feels too wet, you can cover it again and put it back in the oven for an additional 10-15 minutes to cook further.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Apple Piroshki


Piroshki are a popular pastry in Russia, Ukraine, and other parts of the former Soviet Union. Piroshki is a catch-all term for a variety of stuffed pastries, often oval in shape. You’ll find piroshki that are fried or baked, made with yeast-leavened dough, puff pastry, or shortcrust pastry. They can be either savory or sweet, and common fillings include sautéed cabbage, mashed potato with caramelized onion, and sweet apple.

 When piroshki are made with fried yeasted dough they are akin to a donut. Hanukkah, and its celebration of fried foods, is my favorite time of year to make apple piroshki. If you have ever made sufganiyot, this dough recipe will be similar in its ingredients and methods. What makes piroshki different from most sufganiyot is that the filling is added before the dough is fried. Like sufganiyot, piroshki benefit from a generous shower of powdered sugar before serving.

 This is the kind of recipe that takes some time and is ideal for a chilly day when being in the kitchen is calming and warm. Like any fried food, these are unquestionably best eaten straight away or on the same day they are made. Warm and fresh, the golden-brown exterior has the subtlest crisp to it, giving way to soft airy dough beneath, and caramelly apple filling inside.

 If you’re steering clear of oil but have an affinity for piroshki, you can use this recipe to make a baked version. Instructions are provided below. Baked piroshki are also best eaten fresh, but can last an additional 2-3 days if they are warmed up again just before serving.

An apple pirozhok is a warm, festive treat for any winter day. If you’ve added enough powdered sugar, when you take your first bite you can happily expect that sugar to somehow make its way onto your upper lip, and maybe even the tip of your nose.

Apple Piroshki

Makes 16

For the dough:

1¼ cup warm milk

2¼ teaspoons (1 packet) active dry yeast

2 Tablespoons sugar

4 Tablespoons (½ stick) butter, melted and cooled

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3¾ -4 cups (446-480 g)  all purpose flour, start with less and add more flour if needed

1 liter (33 oz) neutral oil for frying (e.g. sunflower, canola, or vegetable)

For the filling:

2½ lbs (about 6-7)  apples, (Crimson, Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, or any baking apple)

½ cup granulated sugar

⅓ cup light or dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Big pinch of salt

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the dough-

Warm the milk so that it is just warm to the touch, but not simmering (between 90°F-110°F). Combine the warm milk with the yeast and the sugar. Allow the yeast to activate and become foamy for 5-10 minutes.

 Add the flour to a stand-mixer with the dough hook attachment or to a large bowl if making the dough by hand. Start with 3¾ cups (446 grams) of flour; if you later find the dough too sticky as you are kneading, add more flour one spoonful at a time.  Make a well in the center of the flour.

Add the melted cooled butter, egg, egg yolk, and salt to the well in the flour. Then add the milk and yeast mixture.

Combine the wet and the dry ingredients on the mixer’s lowest setting, or gently by hand. Once the ingredients are combined and start to form a ball, increase the speed on the mixer to medium, or transfer the dough to a flat surface and begin to knead the dough. The dough will be very sticky, especially at first, but as you knead it will become smoother.

Knead the dough until silky, soft and smooth, about 5-6 minutes in the mixer, or 10 minutes by hand. The dough will slightly stick to the sides of the bowl, but will easily form a smooth soft ball in your hands.

 Once the dough is kneaded, transfer it to a lightly oiled bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a lightly damp towel, and place in a warm part of the kitchen; allow the dough to rise for 1-1½ hours or until doubled in size. While the dough is rising, make your filling.

For the filling-

Peel and core the apples. Dice them small, and add them to a bowl. Combine them with sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. Add them to a deep skillet or large pot, and cook them on medium heat for 15-20 minutes, or until softened and most of the liquid has evaporated. The mixture will start to look like apple pie filling, the liquid will thicken and become syrupy, and the apples will be golden brown. Turn off the heat, and stir in the vanilla extract. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool.

To assemble the piroshki-

Line two baking sheets with parchment.

 Once the dough has risen, punch it down and divide it into 16 equal-sized pieces. To do so, form the dough into a rectangle, divide it into 4 equal parts, and then divide each section into 4 again. For exact uniformity, weigh each piece. Form each piece into a ball, and cover with a clean kitchen towel so they do not dry out as you work.

 On a lightly floured surface, form the piroshki by rolling each ball into a thin circle, about 4-5 inches in diameter. Add 1½ tablespoons of the filling into the center of the circle of dough. Fold the dough upwards towards the center, equally on each side, and pinch the piroshki firmly closed along the top forming them into a sealed oval shape.