Sunday, September 03, 2006

Cooking Rice

Preparing rice rapidly becomes second nature, but I still remember that at first I had to cope with many failed batches. Good thing I had money then. So follow these directions, and learn from my mistakes, ‘cause when you fuck up a pot of rice and you're really poor, that’s one day less to live. Okay, I’m being dramatic, but only sort of dramatic, and that is another one of those things that is altogether too close to the truth for comfort.

  1. Rinse the rice in a sieve, and pick out any foreign material. I never do this, but all rice cooking directions start with this step, and I’m seeking legitimacy.
  1. In a two-quart sauce pan, combine one cup of rice – measure it, damn you, you want this to come out right the first time – with the amounts of water from the table below. If you wish, you can also add a tablespoon of oil, butter or margarine to the pan. Some people add a pinch of salt; I never do. Bring it to a boil uncovered: you need to be able to see it boil, otherwise you’ll get engrossed in doing something else and wonder what that burning smell is.
  1. Reduce the heat on the burner to low, and cook covered for the amount of time in the table below. Sounds simple, yes? It is. But this is the step where you get the hours of experience I have to offer. First, Low Means Low. Not 2, or 3, or whatever other number is on your stove control, but Low. Second, don’t lift the lid. Don’t check on it. Don’t stir it. Trust me, trust the times below. Don’t peek. You’ll scare the rice.
  1. Remove the pan from the burner and let the rice sit, covered, for 4 or 5 minutes. Give the rice a little time to get used to the idea that it’s going to be eaten.
  1. Fluff the rice with a fork. Recipes always say this, so of course I’ve tried many times to fluff it with a tablespoon or a mixing spoon, and it doesn’t fluff. And yet, with a fork[1] it fluffs. Go figure. I wonder what the physics are here. Let me know if you know. Also, you can try and fluff brown rice with any utensil (including a one-iron) until you’re blue in the face and it won’t fluff. This is its nature. It’s unfluffable. It’s the Chicago Bears Fan of rice.

Rice Water Amounts and Cooking Times

Rice Variety


Cooking Time

Brown rice

2 ½ cups

40 – 45 minutes

White enriched rice

2 cups

15 minutes

White basmati rice

1 ¾ cups

15 minutes

Brown basmati rice

2 cups

40 – 45 minutes

Cooking Rice: Variations

If you are making rice as a standalone dish, one of the best things you can do to enhance it is to add bouillon to it. Bouillon powder and cubes both work just fine. Simply add enough bouillon to the rice pan (prior to cooking) for the quantity of water you are using, or perhaps a little less. If you don’t happen to like the brand of bouillon you have, add a lot less. I find the flavor of bouillon brands varies greatly, but when I’m stuck with a bad one I of course still use it.

Another thing that I often add to rice prior to cooking is spices, particularly curry powder. You can buy curry powder or make your own, or you can also use curry paste. Curry paste can be found in most Asian supermarkets. Be forewarned that most curry paste has some form of chili pepper stuff added to it, and can be quite hot.

If you have frozen vegetables, by all means add them as well. You don’t have to thaw them first; you can just add them to the pan before cooking the rice. Frozen peas are my favorite. If you do add vegetables, you can call what you’re preparing biryani, because it’s actually becoming an entrĂ©e.

- Hulles

[1] Or with a rice paddle. They do make them, and I even have one, and they look like mixing spoons. And yet they still fluff rice, go figure.

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