Post # 22 Rice Rice Baby!

July 20, 2012 at 10:15 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Several years ago, I was in a rather poor island nation working for a few weeks.  One night, my coworkers and I decided to have dinner at a nicer restaurant, rather than street food, or hotel food.  The restaurant was at the top of a tall building so the view of the sunset and ocean were fantastic.  The food was delicious, served quickly and professionally, and plentiful.  I had ordered mine with rice, but had the choice of potatoes or flat bread.  We had an enjoyable time and as the evening neared its close, I was chasing a few stray grains of rice around my plate with my fork.  One of my coworkers said, “Joe, I’m sure they’ll bring you more rice if you just ask.”  I looked at my plate at the two grains of rice still sitting there and chuckled.  “No, it’s more that I really like rice than I’m hungry for more.”  I still laugh when I think about how he thought I was chasing two grains of rice because I was hungry.

The history of rice is based on human hunger.  It accounts for nearly a quarter of the calories consumed world-wide, with most of those calories being consumed in third world countries, or emerging countries.  The only grain that’s more heavily grown is corn, or maize, and the majority of that goes to stock keeping rather than human consumption.  There are literally hundreds of varieties of rice grown around the planet, but the human consumption is based on three varieties – Long Grain, Medium Grain, and Short Grain.  There are many many varieties of each of them, and use of each variety is determined by the dish being made.

Long grain rice is more flavorful, drier, less sticky, more prone to individual grains.  This is the preferred rice of Indian cuisine.  My personal favorite is basmati.  Short grain rice is more glutinous, sticky to a point of being pasty, and rather bland.  It gets most of its flavor from the spices and liquids it’s cooked in.  It’s the preferred rice for gruel, puddings, risottos, etc.  Medium grain rice falls in the middle.  It’s used in sushi and the like.  Instant rice is usually medium grain white rice that’s been fully cooked, then dehydrated.  It loses consistency and taste, but is convenient.  With a little planning, it’s easy to have fresh, flavorful, nutritious rice rather than having to resort to instant.  Rice is also differentiated between white and brown.  White rice is just rice that has had the husk and bran removed in the milling process, while brown rice has the bran still intact.  Brown rice needs to cook longer and has more nutrients due to the bran.

When I talk about the differences in rice, and the relative merits between one type of rice and another people look at me like I’m crazy.  However, Jasmine rice and Basmati rice have two distinctive flavors to me, and two entirely separate uses.  Arborrio rice is used for a risotto.  Sticky rice is a treat to itself.

Most Americans were raised on rice kits or instant rice.  The convenience of these are immense.  Throw water and rice kit in a pan, and thirty minutes later you have a complete side dish without the fuss.  However, you’re at the mercy of the manufacturer as to how it’s going to taste.  If the kit is too salty, or the instant too bland, there’s not much you can do about it.  Don’t get me wrong.  There are some amazing rice kits out there.  My two personal favorites are Goya Yellow Rice, and Near East Rice Pilaf.  But making rice is so easy and so inexpensive that it really should be mastered.

First, understand that rice picks up the flavor of whatever it’s cooked with.  Any spices and seasonings you use are going to be intensified in the cooking process.  Second, the way you prepare the rice and the kind of rice being used has an impact on the final process.  We’re going to talk about a basic cooked rice that can be thrown together in about a half hour and is essentially foolproof.

The proportions are 2 to 1.  Two cups of liquid to one cup of rice.  This will yield three cups of cooked rice.  Plain water can be used, but results in bland tasting rice.  I typically use chicken broth because it gives the rice a great flavor that goes well with any meal.  Vegetables, meats, etc can be added during the cooking process to make the rice dish a heartier meal, but that’s a discussion for another day.

In a medium sized pan with a tight fitting lid, heat 1 Tbls of oil and add 1 cup of uncooked rice.  Heat rice thoroughly stirring frequently until it starts to brown.  Allow the rice to brown to a nice color of your preference.  The rice will begin cooking at this point, but that is fine.  Do not allow the rice to burn.  Add two cups of liquid of choice.  Bring the liquid to a boil, place lid on pan, reduce the heat to very low.  Simmer for twenty minutes or until all liquid is absorbed.  Remove pan from heat and allow to sit for five minutes.  Fluff rice before serving.

Easy peasy!  I’ve never had this method fail on me.  You can saute onions before adding the rice to give it a nice flavor.  You can mix liquids, such as chicken broth and white wine.  You can add sesame seeds at the fluff stage to give it a nuttier flavor.  It’s all good.

You may find yourself chasing the last two grains of rice around your plate!

Enjoy!

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2 Comments

  1. My brother recommended I might like this blog. He was entirely right. This post truly made my day. You cann’t imagine just how much time I had spent for this info! Thanks!

    • Glad I could help! Keep watching, I’ll be posting more about rice in the upcoming weeks. I love that stuff!


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