I find myself in the search for rather bland fair, that can be give the RougeChef Twist, if conditions permit. Previously I have touched on pasta, so perhaps rice.
That said it is the staff of life for two thirds of the world’s population, and as such does deserve something more than the usual American cook book treatment. This will be a first of several posts about the different rices and how to prepare them. As rice is as much staple as wheat, it stands to reason that it can be used in as many if not more ways. Cooking rice is not as simple as it looks, there is a good bit of action going on in the pot. Often the finished product is sticky, gluey, crunchy, or shudder burned.
This is one way, I’ve found, to produce rice that’s light and fluffy. (I’ll skip the science and leave the TV Chef’s and Cultural Anthropologists something to do ….)
One can buy a rice cooker, but where is the fun in that. Really all you need is a medium sized sauce pan with a heavy bottom and a tight fitting lid.
The many varieties of rice, for many purposes, are distinguished as long-, medium-, and short-grain rices. The grains of fragrant long-grain rice (high amylose) tend to remain intact after cooking; medium-grain rice (high amylopectin) becomes more sticky. Medium-grain rice is used for sweet dishes, for risotto in Italy and many rice dishes, such as arròs negre, in Spain. Some varieties of long-grain rice are high in amylopectin, these are generally known as Thai Sticky rice, usually steamed. A stickier medium-grain rice is used for sushi; the stickiness lets the rice be moulded into a solid shape.
Short grain rice contains more starch than long and medium grains, which makes the grains very sticky when cooked. (This is often used in Northern Asian cooking, called “Sticky Rice“.) The following varieties of rice can be found in your local supermarkets.
Brown rice is the least processed of all rice varieties. Only the hull is removed. The rice has a natural tan color due to the bran layers that are left on the grain. When cooked, brown rice has a nutty flavor and slightly chewy texture.
White rice is also referred to as polished rice. It is completely milled to remove the hull and bran layers. Always read the label to see if the rice has been enriched. Enriched rice contains thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and iron. Almost all of United States milled rice is enriched. If it has been enriched, you should not rinse it before cooking. Rinsing enriched rice will cause a loss of nutrients. This rice has a mild, delicate flavor. Precooked (quick-cooking, or “60 Second Rice“) rice is brown or white long grain rice that has been cooked, rinsed, and dried. Precooked rice takes only minutes to prepare because it only needs to be rehydrated during preparation.
Parboiled rice or converted rice is steam-pressure treated milling. This causes the vitamins and minerals found in the outer layers to move into the center of the kernel. Thus making rice extra fluffy without sacrificing any of its nutrients. Today, it is the preferred rice of many in the southern parts of the Indian Subcontinent. The starches in parboiled rice become gelatinized, making it harder and glassier than other rice. Parboiled rice takes less time to cook, and the cooked rice is firmer and less sticky.
Basmati rice, traditionally a special strain of rice from India and Pakistan, is indistinguishable from brown rice to the untrained eye, but a quick whiff of the Basmati rice will tell you they are not the same. Basmati rice has a strong, pungent odor that also has a much stronger flavor than regular long grain brown rice. When cooking Basmati rice, it’s always a good idea to wash it first in water which washes away a bit of it’s starch, making it less sticky when cooked. Sought after for Asian cuisine, many people have grown to love the flavor and texture of this rice grown half way around the world.
- For best results, use long grain rice.
- Leave the parboiled and precooked rice for the Uncle
- Count on about 1/2 cup of rice per person
- Rinse the rice in water to get rid of excess starch.
- For every cup of rice, add 1 to 1 1/2 cups water.
- Bring the rice to boil, uncovered, at medium heat.
- When boiling, turn the heat down to medium low.
- Place the lid on the pot, keeping it tilted to allow steam to escape.
- When you can see holes or “craters” in the rice, put the lid on tight.
- Turn the heat to low.
- Simmer for another 15 minutes.
- Fluff up rice and serve