Monday, May 2, 2011

Rice Without Intimidation

Rice used to intimidate the heck out of me!  It seemed no matter what I did, the stuff would always come out more like lumpy wall paper paste than anything even remotely edible.

Let's face it, at 7,000 years of age, rice had a lot of life experience compared to me.  How could I tame such a worldly thing?

Mom used to make Uncle Ben's a lot, but I had a feeling there was more...much more going on!
"There are just so many varieties of  the stuff!" I'd quip while looking over the bins, bags and boxes at the local organic food store.

Long, short and medium grain....and prepared in different forms; regular milled or polished, brown unpolished and parboiled or converted, pre-cooked (also known as "minute rice").  Some rices are sweet and high in gluten, others are hard-shelled and nutty like Louisiana Pecan Rice.  There are foreign varieties like Italian Arborio that require constant attention....including 18 minutes of constant stirring.  So many types, so many ways to cook it!  Enough to make my head spin!

I opted for plain old American milled long grain.  At least we spoke the same language!  Sometimes the magic worked and sometimes it didn't.

I started to get the hang of it with a microwave rice cooker found at a local dollar store.  It worked, so as long as I had that cooker and a functioning microwave, our rice was fine.

Then one day it happened.  The cooker's inner lid got cracked, and it ceased to function.  I was panic-stricken! We were having company that night, and rice was supposed to be part of the meal.  Our guest didn't like potatoes, hated pasta and didn't want yams....but they loved rice.  Oy!   And apparently Jack had bragged to him about my culinary abilities.

 I looked around the kitchen.  There were tons of cook books, so I grabbed a few and read.  Everybody had an opinion on every kind of rice....from Fannie Farmer to Joy of Cooking and everything in between.  I narrowed the search down to plain old long grain white rice. That narrowed the field considerably, although each had their own interpretation of that, too. But they all had a couple of things in common.

1) Measurements are usually the same - 2 parts water to 1 part rice
2) Rice should be cooked for 20 minutes
3) It should be covered that entire time
4) It should rest for about 10 minutes before removing lid
5) It should be fork fluffed before serving
6) It should not resemble lumpy wall paper paste

Some of them called for the rice to be rinsed.  Some suggested heating the rice a few minutes in butter, stirring constantly, before adding the water.  Some just suggested stirring the rice into water that's at a full boil, then lowering the flame immediately to the simmering point and covering it.

This last choice is the one I made then, and the one I still use most often. 
So that's the one I'll talk about today.


1 part rice
2 parts water
1 tsp. salt, optional

Set the water with the salt on the stove to boil - this takes less time if the pan is covered.  Once it's boiling, lower the heat to simmer and stir the rice into the water. Let it come back up to boiling then cover it with a tight fitting lid.   Cook covered for 20 minutes.

Do not....Repeat - DO NOT uncover.  Let the rice do it's work!
After 20 minutes remove the pan from the heat and DO NOT uncover it yet!  Let it sit for 10 minutes.
After that, uncover the rice and fluff it with a fork. Then it's ready to enjoy!

Fork fluffed and ready to eat
This recipe isn't right for every type of rice...some take more time, some need the best thing I can suggest is to read and learn. I'll make some of the other varieties as we go along. The thing to remember about rice, what ever variety,  is that it is primarily a cereal.  So if you come to it with that attitude you have a  better chance of mastering its preparation.

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