Riz pilaf lyonnais

While rice brought back from China in medieval times became a big hit in Italy and Spain (in the XIIIth century), it wasn't such a big hit in France. It wasn't unknown and some was grown in southern France on the delta of the Rhône river, la Camargue. It remains pretty much so today (I rarely ate rice in the six years I lived in France)...

...except for one city, Lyons (about 300 kilometers up the river from la Camargue), where rice because a huge hit and, for hundreds of years, it's an important starch, usually done pilaf style and a little different than pilaf elsewhere. Because of how it's cooked (the parchment paper trick), it's fluffier than ordinary.

Reportedly, when rice is served in Lyons (a place on the A6/A7 I have passed, but never stopped to enjoy), it inevitably suggests chicken with some kind of sauce that often involves vinegar. I might creep up on that, but vinegar puts me off a little, I think I'll use white wine instead.

Soubise : sauce de beurre, d'onion et de consommé de poulet.




1½ cups long-grain rice, such as basmati or jasmine
3 cups chicken stock
2 shallots     or...
1 medium onion finely diced
2-4 tbsp white-wine vinegar (optional, according to taste)
3-4 oz white wine
3 oz butter

Note ratio of rice to chicken stock:   1:2


1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Bring chicken stock to a boil and keep warm in a separate pot.

3. Prepare parchment paper: trace a circle around the rim of the lid of a medium-sized pot, then cut. (Or you can try the arts-and-crafts folding trick beloved by show-offy pastry chefs—fold in half, then bring the folded corners down to the bottom à la paper hat, etc. until you have a point, then cut off the excess in a circular shape.) Better a little too big this paper rather than too small (which will let the rice dry out). Butter one side.

4. Heat a medium-sized pot over a medium flame. Add a couple tablespoons of the butter. Once it melts, add shallot (or onion), reduce flame to low, and cook for a minute or two, stirring continuously. The objective is to soften the shallot (or onion) never to brown it. The diced pieces should look creamy.

5. Add rice to the pot and stir. If there is not enough butter to coat the rice (even if only just), add a little more. Add white vinegar, if using, and slowly reduce, until almost all of the liquid has evaporated. Then add the white wine and reduce again.

6. Add chicken stock, and salt according to taste. Turn up the heat to high. When stock starts to boil, stir once, then cover pot with lid and reduce heat to its lowest setting. Cook for 2 minutes.

7. Remove pot from heat. Replace the lid with circle of parchment paper and put pot into oven.

8. After 15 minutes, taste a kernel of rice to insure that it is cooked through—it should be tender but with a little resistance in the bite. If needed, cook for another 3 to 5 minutes.

9. Remove pot from oven, and fluff up rice gently with a fork, to insure that it is not too compressed. Add butter. Leave to cool with parchment paper on top.