"Goopy" Bulgur and Lentil Pilaf - help for a party
I just received a frantic phone call from a friend who isn't much of a cook, but is hosting a Hanukkah dinner party tomorrow night. I've been advising her as to what can be made ahead of time and what needs to hit the stove tomorrow (the latkes are giving her nightmares). At any rate, she made this recipe from Epicurious:
But with these (notable?) exceptions: she used regular lentils b/c she couldn't find green, and coarse ground bulgur, b/c she couldn't find medium.
She called, frantic, because after cooking for way beyond the 10 minutes in the recipe (there was lots of liquid at that point, and the bulgur wasn't cooked), it "is gloopy and goopy like rice pudding, not like a pilaf."
Ingredients are cheap and plentiful, so she's willing to give it another go, but only if she receives tips to make the pilaf more pilaf like and less goopy. Anyone? Anyone? (I don't cook with bulgur that much.) My alternate plan is to add an egg to the mix and form them into little pilaf cakes and either bake or panfry them. I'll take votes as to which way to go.
I immediately knew Chowhound would be where I'd find an answer. Thanks!
Thanks for all your help! We ended up putting the pilaf into a buttered dish and baking it, so it developed a crust on top and bottom. We then topped it with fried onions. It was a great counterpoint to the roasted chicken with fruits and caramelized onions, and everyone loved it! I've passed along your bulgur prep recipes.
I pour boiling water onto coarse bulgar (2:1) and let soak. This is speedier than using cold water, and you don't run the risk of mush. When bulgar is cooled and hydrated, squeez out excess moisture and add to lentils. By the way, I cook lentils like risotto: saute veggies, add lentils and just enough liquid to barely cover. Simmer and add hot liquid as needed to barely cover. When the lentils are done to your liking, there won't be any excess liquid in the pot.
The amount of water in the original recipe seems reasonable for the bulgur and lentils. I'm not sure what kind of lentils your friend is using but my guess is that this may be the reason the pilaf isn't coming together as it should. If she has brown lentils, they need a longer cooking time than 10 minutes. Bulgur is partially cooked so only needs to be hydrated (as described above).
If your friend wants to try this again with the same ingredients, EvilRonnie's method which means cooking the lentils and bulgur separately is the way I would do it. Or you can par-cook the lentils separately and add them to the rest of the mix for the 10 minutes it takes for the bulgur to cook. If she does this, be sure to reduce the liquid in the bulgur/spice mix. My general rule of thumb is that bulgur/water ratio is roughly 1:2. I usually start with a little less water and add more if I think the bulgur needs it.
At the private club where I am the chef, we often do a lentil-bulghur pilaf as an alternative to potato, rice and so on. I don't remember where I found the recipe, but here's our method and it comes out perfect.
1. Soak medium bulghur in a large quantity of cold water for several hours. When fully hydrated, squeeze dry and set aside.
2. Simmer the lentils (we use the French) in chicken stock or salted water with aromatic vegetables until just done, still with a bite and not mushy or disintegrating. Strain the lentils and cool on a cookie sheet
(Steps 1 and 2 may be done as far as a day or two in advance)
3. Shortly before we're ready to serve, we saute a brunoise of aromatic vegetables, usually celery, leek, carrot, and onion in a large brazier or saute pan until softened. Use any fat you like.
4. When mirepoix is softened, add both the lentils and the bulghur and moisten with a little chicken stock over low to medium heat, stirring frequently, until hot. Season as you wish. We add lots of chopped fresh parsley.
Hope this helps.