Post #376 Rice Again?

June 1, 2015 at 12:11 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post #376 Rice Again?

Yup, we had rice again.  We love rice.  I was commenting to a friend on FB that I can discuss the intricacies of rice for an hour, going into the length of the grain, the various varietals, the various cooking methods, even the different flavors of one rice versus another and one cooking method versus another of the same rice grain.  I once asked someone I worked with who said that liked rice what their favorite rice was.  They replied “Uncle Ben’s!” and I took the conversation in another direction.

My mom like rice, but wasn’t into actually cooking it.  We had a lot of “boil in a bag” rice with butter on it, or sometimes with gravy.  We also had those boxed rice mixes that came from San Francisco.  Some of you will remember those.  Then later came the envelopes of rice mixes that claimed to have vegetables in them, mostly in a cheese sauce.  Mom would get into routines and serve things until we were sick to death of them.  It was a long time before I could look a potato in the face as an adult.

My rice journey start haphazardly, as most of my cooking knowledge did.  A roommate I had at the time was trying to lose weight so he lunched only on canned tuna and Minute Rice.  He biked to the apartment from about a half mile away and didn’t want to take a long time to prepare his lunch.  He’d plop the parboiled rice into a bowl, throw the tuna and its water into the bowl, nuke it for a couple of minutes, add a little cheese, and chow down.  Every time I saw him do that, I’d shudder.  I decided it was time to learn rice.

I’ve eaten rice all over the world and in every form imaginable.  I’ve mentioned before that my favorite rice is basmati.  It just tastes good to me.  Another favorite is black rice.  This is an Asian rice, also called Forbidden Rice since in its early days, it was reserved for the emperor and the elite classes.  Taking even a handful of this rice was justification for death.

But with all the rice out there that I’ve eaten and cooked, the one I had least experience with is risotto.

So what’s risotto?  It’s the Italian name for a rice dish that’s cooked quite differently from most rice dishes, uses a different variety of rice, and whose cooking process creates a flavorful and creamy sauce.

I’ve talked about the different kinds of rice before, the length of the grains, etc.  Risotto is made with a variety called Arborio.  It’s a short grain, but much plumper, almost round.  It’s also got a unique ability to absorb liquid.  All other rice varieties that I’ve come across will absorb liquid in a two to one ratio.  One cup of rice to two cups of liquid creates two cups of cooked rice.  With arborio rice, and others of this type, the ratio is four to one.  The cooking time is the same, though, 15-20 minutes.

Risotto isn’t cooked in a covered pan, and it isn’t cooked undisturbed.  Risotto is cooked in a large open skillet; it is stirred constantly through its cooking process; the liquid is added in small stages.

Risotto also captures the flavors of the liquids its cooked in like nothing else.  And a small amount makes a lot!

Here’s the basic recipe:

  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 4 cups simmering chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Over medium heat, melt butter and olive oil in a large skillet.  In a separate pan, heat chicken broth to simmering and reduce heat to keep broth simmering, but not boiling.  When butter and olive oil are blended, put rice in skillet and stir constantly.  The rice will absorb the butter and oil pretty quickly.  Allow rice to toast to a light brown in about a 50/50 ratio of toasted and not toasted rice.  Add 1/2 a cup of chicken broth carefully and stir. Never stop stirring the rice.  When the broth is absorbed, add chicken broth in 1/4 cup increments, stirring and allowing the broth to be absorbed.  At the start of the cooking process, the liquid will be absorbed quickly.  By the end, it will take longer and you will see the sauce developing.  The whole cooking process will take anywhere from 15-20 minutes.  Try not to over cook by testing the rice towards the end.  It should have an al dente texture, but not crunchy.  Served warm.  Freeze leftovers, if any.

That’s the basic recipe.  That’s not what I did.

  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 4 cups simmering chicken broth
  • Juice from one lemon, strained
  • zest from one lemon
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese

Over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and olive oil in a large skillet.  In a separate pan, heat chicken brother, lemon juice, and garlic to simmering and reduce heat to keep simmering but not boiling.  Toast rice in butter and olive oil, stirring constantly allowing about half the grains to get lightly brown.  Stir in 1/2 cup of broth and stir until absorbed.  Never stop stirring.  Add the rest of the broth in 1/4 cup increments, stirring until each addition is absorbed.  When all the broth is absorbed and the rice is done, remove from heat.  Stir in the cheese and extra butter.  Pour into a bowl and sprinkle lemon zest over the top.  Serve hot.

Risotto

All that rice came from one cup.

There are hundreds of risotto recipes.  You can add meat and vegetables at the end to make a “gumbo” style dish.  I’ve eaten it with about a dozen different mushroom cooked into it.  You can substitute almost any liquid for the chicken broth, like wine!  The key is your imagination, the right kind of rice, and keep stirring!

Let me know if you try this and what you do with it.

Enjoy

 

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