When my next-oldest Bro got married, he didn’t have a Best Man, he had a Pretty Good Guy. I find that a pretty good concept to apply to rice cooking as well; perfect ain’t real, but purty darn good is most definitely attainable! As I’ve said before, in cooking, simple is always best, but not always easy; this is very true indeed when it comes to cooking rice. Got into a thread on FB this morning about rice and promised therein to sum up our experience. Simple and good takes practice and a sound routine; so here’s ours for rice.
First and foremost, all rice is not created equal: There’s white and brown, (Both found in long, medium and short grain), and wild, with a myriad of named and stylistic varieties for each. Label or brand means nothing vis a vis quality – Find local or small batch producers whenever you can; we buy Spanish rice, (Like the amazing Bomba), from Spain, long-grain white from Texas, (Texmati), and wild rice from Minnesota. And finally, never buy instant or quick cooking rice – It’s pre-cooked dehydrated crap that doesn’t deserve space in your pantry…
This isn’t meant to be a major treatise, just some basics for the broadest varieties of rice: Keep in mind that all those varieties out there have different starch levels, and as such, they really do cook differently.
When it comes to white rice, what you want to make determines what rice you want.
If you’re just after nice, fluffy side dish rice, get the longest grain you can find.
If you want to make a casserole, soufflé, soup, stew, creamed dish, or something along those lines, chose medium grain.
If you’re looking to do Paella or Risotto, short grain is your rice, (And you owe it to yourself to try a legendary rise for each of those, like Bomba or true Arborio.)
Now for cooking basics:
For white rice, follow these simple steps to great rice every time.
1. ALWAYS rinse your rise. Put it in a colander or strainer and rinse under cold water while fluffing the grains with your hand, for about 30 seconds or so.
2. Add a tablespoon of butter for each cup of rice you cook. Just as steak eaters at restaurants don’t know why that steak comes out so great, (Cooked right and doused with butter right before service), great rice you’ve had probably had butter in the mix!
3. Use a 2:1 water to rice ratio, less a tablespoon of water for each tablespoon of butter you added, (So, a cup of water minus 1 tablespoon for each ½ cup of rice, capiche?) If you want extra fluffy rice, subtract 2 tablespoons of agua for each cup, ‘cause truth be told, the water is what makes rice mushy when it gets that way.
4. Bring your water and butter to a brisk boil over high heat to start the cooking. Use a pot large enough to handle the expanded volume of the rice plus plenty of room for steam.
5. When your water is boiling at a nice, brisk clip, add a pinch of good sea salt, and then add the rice veeeerrrrry slowly! Really trickle it into the water, seriously; letting the grains bath as individually as possible really does help separate the grains.
6. Stir the pot once, really well, then cover, reduce the heat to low and simmer for +/- 15 minutes. Don’t uncover the pot for at least 12 minutes, period.
7. At the 12 minute park, test taste the rice and do so every minute or so thereafter until you have a nice al dente bite.
8. Remove the rice from the heat, keep it covered, and let it rest for at least 5 and up to 10 minutes. Fluff it with a fork before serving.
Brown rice pretty closely follows the rules for white detailed above, with a bunch of specialty variations of its own, like Jasmine, Basmati and Kalijira. These are all good stuff, so try ‘em and find your fave!
For brown rice, we use a slightly different method; try it and see what you think.
1. For brown rice, use a 4:1 water to rice ratio. Follow the butter/water rule as detailed above.
2. Follow Rules 1 to 5 above, as for white rice.
3. Once your rice is added to the boiling water, reduce heat to medium low and simmer uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Remove rice from heat and pour back into the colander: Drain rice for 10 seconds, then return it to the pot, on the stove but not over heat.
5. Tightly cover the pot and set it aside, allowing the rice to steam for 10 minutes (if your pot lid isn’t extremely tight, place a piece of aluminum foil over pot then place the lid on top of foil for a tighter seal).
6. After ten minutes, uncover rice, fluff with a fork, and season with salt to taste. Perfect every time!
Wild rice is a completely different thing from the other varieties, in fact, it ain’t rice at all; rather it is most often the wild grass Zizania. Wild rice grows here in the Great Lakes region of the US and Canada, as well as the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is simply amazing and worth whatever it costs you to get it. Again, find the genuine article online if you don’t live near or know folks who can score some for you, and buy from the people who deserve your business!
For wild rice, we’ve found the following to work great for us every time.
1. Use a 2:1 water to rice ratio.
2. Follow white rice rules through step 6.
3. Cover the rice and simmer over medium low heat for 10 minutes. Watch it closely after this point. Once you see the grains begin to split, stir the rice gently. Depending on the rice, the split will look like anything from a fat rice grain to dang near popcorn in volume; each one is different, so you just gotta feel your way through!
4. Once most of the grains have split and you have a nice al dente bite, remove it from the heat, and pour through a colander to drain all remaining water.
5. Return to a pot or mixing bowl and season or add ingredients as you see fit.
Every wild rice we’ve tried is different in taste, look, feel and smell, and it’s all amazing. Good wild rice needs nothing more than a little salt, pepper and butter to be a meal unto itself, frankly, (Good salt and good pepper, though, right?)
Wild rice salads, like the ones M created that you can find on a couple of posts herein, are amazing, sublime and oh, so delicious, so look ‘em up and build ‘em!
For darn near any of these varieties, you can substitute stock for all or part of the water. Beef, chicken, veggie or fish stock will all work; choose these options based on what your final dish is, of course. Make or buy unsalted stock, or compensate by not adding the pinch of salt if that’s not available to you.