Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Rice 1: Mission statement and Jasmine rice.

As many of you fine readers may know I eat a lot of rice.  Hell I think I love rice almost as much as Hanada Goro.  When I have the grumblies I often just whip up a pan of rice with whatever I have in the fridge and/or pantry.  I don't have a rice cooker - I have to agree with Alton Brown that a person should never own a single task piece of equipment.  I used to make rice in a sauce pan but stopped doing that over a year ago.  Now I use a frying pan with a lid.  Personally I prefer this method because I find it's easier to monitor the state of the rice and in my opinion diffuses the area of heat, thus reducing the risk of having a layer of burnt rice underneath either under done or just plain gloppy rice.

I am starting this short series on rice; types of rice, how to cook each type, tips and tricks, a few favorite and simple recipes, and a piece on rice alternatives (y'know, for when you get sick of rice).  My reason for writing this series is because lately I've been coming up with new ideas for rice, talking to people about how they cook their rice, problems, concerns, and so on and so forth.

My favorite type of rice is Jasmine (particularly MTT Brand - the 25lb bag with the Dragon on it) from Thailand.  In Kasma Loha-unchit's article about the differences between Thai and American Jasmine rice she is right on the mark.  Jasmine grown in America is boring.  It's just boring rice.  Thai Jasmine is, well, different...it's fragrant with a delicate, almost floral aroma when you open the bag or the storage container (yes I have a rice container - on wheels - large enough to hold a 25lb bag of rice).  That smell reminds of good Southeast Asian meals I've had across the country and also brings a sense of nostalgia (though of what or where I'll never know).  Yes, Jasmine rice makes me misty eyed.  Shut up.


Another reason I love Jasmine is because it's the simplest rice to make - in my experience.  It's also tasty by its lonesome.  However it's even more tasty when combined with the simplest of ingredients.  Here's how I make it:

  1.  I heat my pan a bit (medium heat) and add just enough oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan.  Personally I prefer grapeseed oil but that's because at the grocery store, grapeseed oil was cheaper than olive oil.  You can also not use any oil at all if you don't plan on adding any herbs or seasonings before the rice - I, however do.  Often I will add some minced garlic to the oil and gently saute for a little bit before adding 1 cup of dry rice.  Keep the mixture moving over medium heat, yes this requires a modicum of patience but you a) don't want burnt garlic or b) burnt rice.  You don't have to flail at the rice like you're whipping ingredients around a ten quart wok.
  2. Now while you are toasting your rice, there will be a slight change in color in the grains usually around the same time as you start to smell your rice.  Here's a trick, take the pan off the hot burner while you get your liquid (unless you were smart and got your mis en place set up ahead of time).  Now the rule of thumb with rice is 2 to 1 (i.e. 2 cups water to 1 cup rice).  That being said I eyeball my liquid to rice ratio (especially when cooking with stock).  I pour enough liquid in to cover the rice about...maybe a quarter inch-ish.  Then I keep some liquid on reserve.  Let's say use a cup and half/cup and two thirds of liquid in your rice, and save a third (you'll see why in a moment).
  3. Now add your liquid to the rice (important safety tip: speaking from personal experience try to be careful because room temperature/cold liquid with create steam and steam can scald the shit out of your hands), return the pan to the burner.  Drop the heat down to low/medium-low.  My mnemonic device is, "Slow and low, that is the tempo."  Set a timer for maybe sixteen or seventeen minutes.  Go check facebook or Hooligan Youth Reviews.
  4. When the timer goes off, lift off the lid and check the rice.  Is there still liquid?  Put the lid back on and set the timer for another five minutes.  Is there no liquid?  Give the rice a poke with a poking implement - check to see if it is getting stuck to the bottom of the pan and to check the texture.  If you are unsure, then taste the rice.  Does it taste good?  Yes?  Then you're done.  Does it taste bad or is the rice still kind of crunchy or al dente?  Ah, that's why we have some liquid on reserve, although if your rice tastes bad then do not get discouraged just make some queso and have chips for dinner or since you're a grown up you can have cookies and ice cream for dinner.  If your rice is still al dente but tastes fine just add the remaining liquid, clap the lid back on and go do something for five minutes.
  5. Here's my final thought:  So your rice is done, good taste, good texture, it's not something you can use as spackle...gently fluff the rice, remove from heat, replace lid and let rest for a minute or so.  I know, you're starving, this rice thing takes forever.  However, while the rice has a moment to sit - get out your favorite rice bowl, your favorite condiments, and whatever else you need.  Now go om nom nom your rice.
In part two I will probably tackle two more favorites: Wild Rice and Rice Pilaf.  Part three will be how to make brown rice without screaming and part four will be couscous, barley, and quinoa.  If anyone has questions or comments please let me know or if there are recipes you'd like to suggest please let me know.

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