Monday, January 4, 2010

Is It Just Me?

I grew up in a potato household. Mashed, boiled, baked. It was our go-to side dish. We didn't eat rice, ever. That might be why, after all these years, I've been terrified to try. I know what you're thinking: But you bake! And baking is way scarier than rice!

Well, no it ain't.

It seems difficult, so prone to error. Finicky. I mean, there's a reason somebody invented the rice cooker - It must be tough to get just right. I've had visions of a 10 second window of time, the difference between cooked and overcooked. I've imagined two inches of baked-on, blackened sludge on my medium-sized pot-bottom. I had the ill-conceived notion that if you dared open the lid during the critical steaming time, all was lost.

So, with Natasha on culinary-tech-support, I finally got up the courage today. I did my requisite Googling, conjoining a dozen strangers' recipes, noting times and burner temperatures and ratios of water to grain. I asked Natasha a hundred questions about her methods.

And I threw caution to the wind.

Guess what - It's not hard to make rice. Like, not hard at all. Perhaps easier than mashing potatoes. (At least with my lack of upper arm muscularity.) And it's an adaptable blank canvas upon which to layer all your flavour-desires.

On medium heat, I sautéed four cloves of garlic and three shallots in a tablespoon of olive oil in a medium-sized pot. Next I added a teaspoon (or so) of cumin, a couple handfuls each of pine nuts and golden raisins. Salt, pepper. I had hoped for saffron, but couldn't find any at our local grocery store. Add a cup and a half of Basmati rice. Stir and allow the flavours to blend for a minute or two before adding 3 cups of chicken stock. (Or water. Or a mix.) Bring it to a boil for two minutes, lower the heat to low-medium, and put a lid on it. Keep a reasonably close eye on it, check and taste often, ensuring the liquid doesn't run dry too long before it's sufficiently cooked. If it looks like you need to, add a bit more stock or water. It's not so precious after all!

Ten or fifteen minutes later: Rice! Easy breezy. When you're ready to serve, stir in some finely chopped parsley and a tablespoon of butter. Sweet and savoury, the raisins and cumin dueling deliciously.

My first rice was served with salmon baked in lemon, dill and gin. And steamed asparagus. Nice and light (our holiday bloat beginning to subside) but so satisfying. Potatoes might be my first and deepest love, but rice is awfully sexy too.


  1. You and Natasha are so dreamy! Congratulations on the rice cooking!

  2. Wow...that's quite an adventure...keep it up!

  3. See, cooking a roast is foreign to me. very foreign. congratulations on successful rice! Rice is so amazing!!

  4. Delish. You put Uncle Ben to shame.

  5. Leave it to you to start with a fear of rice and jump straight on into pilaf - congratulations! It looks amazing. I like to use cinnamon sticks, cloves, bay leaves, cardamom, and yogurt (it makes the texture incredibly fluffy).

    Salmon cooked in *gin* - ooooh! That's a spirit I'd never considered for cooking. It must impart a hint of botanicals. Thanks for the tip!

  6. "the raisins and cumin dueling deliciously" - love it!

    Echoing Jeff E's comment: you went from zero to sixty in five seconds here. WOW. If I want edible rice, I must follow the package instructions to the letter. I've a friend who cooks rice the way I cook pasta. She measures NOTHING. No water to rice ratio. No clock watching. She laughs at my amazement. You make pilaf sound so easy I just might try it next week. Thanks!

  7. Haha! You and rice, huh? Who knew it was such a deep fear.