Lebanese Vermicelli Rice is a mainstay with any grilled meats or vegetables. The broken vermicelli pieces are browned in butter for an added layer of color and flavor. Buy the Vermicelli Pieces here.
In culinary school, in the French tradition, there are a few bedrock recipes that a student begins with: Pâte à choux (think cream puffs, gougères). Chicken and beef stock. Basic vinaigrette. Rice pilaf.
These starter recipes teach the student to memorize, to cook without a recipe, and to use intuition, experience, and taste as a guide.
My rice pilaf has always been special to eaters outside the family/Lebanese circle. From within the circle, the rice is simply a mainstay. I learned as my mom and hers before her taught: break thin pasta into little pieces. Brown those in butter. Add the rice to coat. Add chicken broth, salt, lid, and cook for 30 minutes. Every week at least once.
The little browned noodles add color, depth, flair. Given how little butter is used in day-to-day cooking in the Mediterranean, I wonder if the butter-browned piece comes from the French influence that is such a part of Lebanese culture.
The classic French pilaf starts with onion and garlic softened, never browned, in butter. When I hybrid my Lebanese + classic French pilaf, I brown the vermicelli first, then at a low temp soften the onion and garlic. The depth of flavor takes the rice to stand-alone level.
This is essentially a play on My Mom’s Special Rice. She makes the classic vermicelli rice pilaf and makes a separate saute of onion, garlic, mushrooms, scallions. Then she gilds the lily with butter-fried pine nuts. Feel free to do the same here.
Here is the rice dish that is aside every grill menu in the Lebanese repertoire, especially kebabs of any kind. We love this rice with grilled chicken shawarma. Memorize, intuit/experience/taste, and it’s yours forevermore.
Lebanese Vermicelli Rice
THE rice to pair with roasted or grilled meats and vegetables. To make the rice vegan, substitute olive oil for the butter and vegetable stock or water for the chicken stock. Use vermicelli or angel hair pasta, broken into 1-inch pieces before cooking. Buy the vermicelli pieces here.
- 2 tablespoons butter (salted or unsalted)
- 1/3 cup vermicelli pieces
- 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced or grated
- 2 cups long grain white rice
- 3-4 cups chicken stock
In a medium saucepan with a lid, heat the butter over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted and foamy, add the vermicelli pieces and saute, stirring constantly, until the pasta and butter are golden brown.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion, garlic, and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook, covered, until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, rinse the rice with cool water 4 or 5 times. This removes some of the starch, to prevent the rice from being sticky.
Add the drained rice to the vermicelli mixture, and stir to coat. Pour in 3 ½ cups of the chicken stock. Taste and add more salt if needed. Increase the heat to medium high and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to medium low, and cook for about 30 minutes.
Turn off the heat and remove the lid, letting the steam heat escape for 5 minutes. Stir the rice and taste, adding salt if needed, and more chicken stock a tablespoon or two at a time to moisten the rice.
Serve immediately. If made ahead, reheat the rice on the stove or in the microwave over medium low heat, first moistening it with a few tablespoons of chicken stock.