The Food Issue
Plov, the root of pilaf, is a Central Asian dish of meat, carrot, garlic, onion, and rice. Traditionally its preparation was the exclusive province of men, and a recent informal survey suggests that remains the case. A Tajik college student I spoke with told me she thought women wouldn’t add enough meat if they were in charge of plov. An Uzbek man named Hosiljon Rakmonor turned my question around so effortlessly that women making plov seem no more possible than man making baby.
“Can women make plov as well as men?” I asked Rakmonor. He folded his hands behind his back. “If a woman wants to eat man’s plov” he said, “they must order their husband or their brother to make it. That way, they can eat with pleasure. If you want to eat something that is prepared perfectly, you must have the master prepare it. Man is the master of plov.”
I’m skeptical of this idea, for what it’s worth, and invite women everywhere to see what they can do in the plov department. And to bring me samples.
Of the meats typically sold in stores, “stew meat” is usually the toughest, and that is tender enough for this recipe. If you’re using a truly tough cut of meat, braise it ahead of time so that it’s soft before proceeding.
Soak two cups of long grain brown or white rice in a pot of water. Fry a pound of meat, cut into chunks, in olive oil on medium heat. When the meat is crispy all around, add an onion, minced, and a chopped head of garlic, and carrots that have been chopped into whatever size you wish. Stir occasionally, seasoning with salt, pepper, and spices like clove, nutmeg, and coriander if you wish. When the onions are caramelized, pour the water off the rice you have soaking, and spoon the soaked rice onto the meat and veggies. Don’t mix it in, just add the rice on top. Then add water to the pot so it just covers the rice, and then add a cup more of water.
Cook on low until the rice is done, adding more water if necessary. When the water is gone from the pot, and the rice on top is cooked, turn off the heat and let the plov rest for 20 minutes. Invert the pot onto a plate, so the meat and goodies are on top, and serve.