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Jaíne Mackievicz’s Pilaf Recipe with Dried Fruit and Nuts
Jaíne Mackievicz’s Pilaf Recipe with Dried Fruit and Nuts
Your new favorite pilaf recipe – courtesy of the inspiring Jaíne Mackievicz.
We met Jaíne Mackievicz at the 2022 Taste of Santa Barbara. We instantly fell in love with her sunny disposition and connected over a shared love for all things California – the people, the farmers, and the food.
Why I love California:
I never thought I would move to California. Born 4,817 miles away, I thought I would live in our remote village in the Amazon for the rest of my life.
Three years ago, living in Massachusetts, I found myself at a crossroads. I either had to go back to my country and deal with tons of immigration paperwork in order to live in the US a bit more on a costly, exhausting student visa, or I had to find a job here.
Then California happened.
A job opportunity popped up, and I immediately packed my cookbooks (and husband), and we drove across the country to end up here. Southern California received me with open arms, glowing sunlight that is never shy to shine, and possibly the best grapes I’ve ever tried.
The Golden State embraced my immigrant-ness without further questions. When I was so exhausted from persisting and trying to thrive in my immigrant dreams that seemed more and more unobtainable, California gave me hope that one day I could also call this country mine.
Like a marvelous party host, California had me at the table, poured me the most aromatic, crisp, and complex glass of wine, and prepared me for a feast. On the menu, generous flavors, smells, colors, and opportunities I could only find here. A place to grow, build a community and live (more) in synchrony with nature, just like I was used to in Brazil.
A fertile soil for vegetables, fruits, and for an immigrant like me to grow. For immigrants that don’t look at all like me, to grow alike. California is bountiful not only with food, but also with the hospitality of its people that don’t measure efforts in making you feel like you belong. Spend some time at any farmers market, and you’ll be able to taste it.
California’s productive soil is also able to support the growth of a large number of dreams. The state’s bounty of more than 400 different commodities, including over two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts and more than a third of its vegetables.
It’s a testament to the state’s status as the reigning agricultural powerhouse of the nation.
About this pilaf recipe
Growing up in Brazil meant feasting on Arroz de Festa in celebrations almost every year. Usually just one component of a larger spread, rice is never skipped in Brazilian tables, and this pilaf recipe, in particular, goes well with roasts, leafy salads, and as a base to receive ladlefuls of sauces and stews.
I like how the humble rice, in this preparation, receives royalty treatment through the abundance of luscious California Jumbo Raisins, meaty almonds, and the lively tanginess of sparkling wine. In Brazil, it is traditionally cooked on the stovetop, but having tasted – at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris – pilaf the way the French do, I swiftly switched my own pilaf recipe to the oven, too.
I developed this recipe in a way that the pot goes to the oven under a parchment lid called a cartouche, which is essential in many other French dishes for retaining moisture in a particular way. The oven’s even heat distribution ensures a wonderful creaminess in the rice kernels while still holding a bite to it. As a bonus, the oven makes the preparation of rice, which can be tricky, much more straightforward, whether you’re in Brazil, France, or California.
I have had versions of this rice cooked with water instead of wine, and they are just as delicious. If you do this way, I’d recommend adding a tablespoon of white wine vinegar to the water to add a sharp note that will complement the butter. Half water and half wine should work, too.
For a vegan version, you could substitute the butter with olive oil. Although I’ve always eaten this dish as a side, I believe it has the potential to be a successful main course on its own – filling and surprisingly rich.
Let’s make Arroz de Festa!
Arroz de Festa (Pilaf with Almonds and Raisins)
- 1 ½ cups long-grain rice preferably jasmine
- 1 ¼ cup mixed California Jumbo Raisins
- 1/2 cup whole almonds skin removed
- 1 finely diced medium yellow onion about 1 cup
- 3-4 medium cloves of garlic grated
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter + ½ tbsp to brush on the parchment lid
- 1 ½ teaspoons fine sea salt
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 cups brut sparkling wine
- 2 tablespoons toasted sliced almonds optional
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley optional
- Position a rack in the center and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Make a parchment paper cartouche*.
- Prepare your ingredients by measuring out, separately, the rice (do not wash the rice), raisins, and almonds* and setting them aside. Then finely dice the onion, peel, and grate the garlic. Have the salt, butter, and bay leaves handy. Measure out the sparkling wine.
- Heat a large-sized, non-stick and oven-safe skillet (with tall sides) or a medium-sized pot over medium heat (induction 3-5). Melt the butter, then remove the pan from the heat, and with a heat-safe brush, brush the extra ½ tbsp over one side of the parchment cartouche.
- To the remaining 2 tbsp of melted butter, add the onion and garlic and bring it back to the heat to sauté for 2-4 minutes, stirring continuously. Add the salt. Control the heat so the garlic and onion don’t brown – they should look translucent, soft, and cooked through.
- Add the rice and almonds to the pot and stir. Continue stirring for about 3-4 minutes, over medium heat, to seal the grains of rice, ensuring an even cooking in the oven (that’s the secret!). Work attentively not to let the rice brown. As the rice seals, notice the rice color changing to a slightly more opaque white as an indication.
- After 3-4 minutes, add the California Jumbo Raisins and stir.
- Add the sparkling wine, and bay leaves, then stir, and taste to adjust the seasoning if necessary. If it tastes slightly saltier than you expect, it means it’s properly seasoned, as the flavor will change as the liquid is absorbed.
- Turn up the heat to high until the liquid starts to boil, then give it a last stir, remove it from the heat, and cover the pot with the parchment cartouche. Press the parchment paper down so that it touches the surface of the food and reaches the sides of the pot or pan.
- Put the pot in the oven and set the alarm for 25 minutes. After that, taste the rice to ensure it’s cooked through. The bite should be a little resistant, but soft through. If it’s still crunchy, pop it back in the oven for no more than 5 minutes (cooking time 25-30 min).
- Remove the pot from the oven, being careful to wrap the handle with a dry towel as you do it. Remove the cartouche, then gently, with a fork, fluff up the rice to ensure the steam comes out.
- Transfer the rice to a platter, sprinkle with chopped parsley and toasted sliced almonds, if you’d like, and serve it right away, while still hot.
- Cut a square of parchment paper slightly larger than the diameter of your pot or pan.
- Fold the square in half diagonally to form a triangle.
- Fold the triangle in half again to form a smaller triangle.
- Fold the bottom corner up to the top corner, forming a smaller triangle.
- Place the tip of the triangle in the center of the pot or pan and mark where the parchment paper reaches the edge of the pot or pan.
- Cut along the mark to create a circle.
- Unfold the parchment paper and place it on top of the food in the pot or pan.
- Press the parchment paper down so that it touches the surface of the food and reaches the sides of the pot or pan.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil.
- Add the almonds to the boiling water and let them blanch for about 1 minute.
- Drain the almonds and rinse them with cold water.
- Press the almonds between your fingers, and the skins should easily slip off.
Love Jaíne’s pilaf recipe? Try these next.
Get to know Jaíne!
Jaíne Mackievicz moved to the United States from the Brazilian Amazon in 2017 with one goal in mind. She wanted to learn to cook like her childhood hero, Julia Child.
She had originally hoped to attend the Gastronomy program at Boston University. When that didn’t work out, something different (or as she’ll tell you, something magical) fell into place. Jaíne had written a wildly successful article for the Julia Child edition of Cherry Bombe magazine. Her work made an impression on folks in the culinary world. When the Julia Child Foundation + Food Network were casting the 2022 Julia Child Challenge, Jaíne was invited to audition – and won. She’s in the process of writing her first cookbook and maintains a weekly newsletter, Dinner at Jaíne’s.