From: Executive chef/owner Ris Lacoste, Ris, Washington, DC. Yield: 8 servings.
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3 medium onions, 2 sliced (about 3 cups) and 1 small diced (about 1¼ cup)
½ tsp. ground allspice
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
pinch of ground cloves
1½ tsp. kosher salt, or as needed, divided
as needed, freshly ground black pepepr
1 medium orange, zest finely grated (about 2 ½ tsp.) and juice (about 6 Tbsp.)
¾ cup sweetened dried tart cherries
1½ cups long-grain white rice
¾ cup (3.5 oz.) pistachios, shelled, toasted, roughly chopped.
In a 12" heavy-based skillet, melt 2 Tbsp. butter over medium heat. Add sliced onions; reduce heat to medium low and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly caramelized, about 20 to 25 minutes. Add allspice, cinnamon and cloves; stir well. Reduce heat to low and cook another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to allow onion to absorb the flavors of the spices and caramelize. Season with ½ tsp. salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Set aside.
Pour orange juice over cherries in a small bowl to hydrate them. If necessary, add enough water to cover completely.
In heavy-based 3 quart saucepan with a tight lid, melt the remaining 2 Tbsp. butter over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium low and add diced onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add rice and the remaining 1 tsp. salt and stir well to coat each grain with butter. Toast for a full 5 minutes, stirring regularly to keep the grains separated and to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pan (the rice may turn opaque before 5 minutes is up, but keep going). Reduce heat to low if there are any signs of scorching.
Fluff the rice by slipping tines of a fork down into the rice alongside edge of the pan. Gently lift and toss the rice toward center of the pan. Continue this process around the perimeter.
Add 2½ cups water, stir once and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cover; reduce heat to low and cook for 18 minutes. Remove from heat and let pilaf sit covered for 5 minutes.
Once pilaf has rested, remove lid and fluff rice with a fork. Strain cherries and discard orange juice. Using fork, gently fold in caramelized onions, orange zest, cherries and pistachios. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.
Photo: National Onion Association