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>The Many Faces of Rice

Posted on March 10, 2009 by Glutenfreeda

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One of the joys of living on a gluten-free diet is rice. Rice has always been a staple in our family. My father’s Hawaiian heritage provided our family with a certain way of eating that included rice at every meal. As I grew up, I too, served plain white rice at almost every meal. Rice seemed a natural accompaniment to everything, including eggs for breakfast, all meats, fish and vegetables, chili, stew and yes, even spaghetti sauce.

There are so many ways to prepare rice from boiling, steaming, baking, frying and an infinite number of recipes originating from cultures all over the world. Asian, Middle Eastern, Indian, Latin, Mediterranean, European and American cultures all have unique ways of preparing this versatile grain.

There seems to be much mystery about how to correctly cook plain white rice. Anyone who comes from a family where rice is a staple, probably has their own method that has been passed on from mother to daughter, generation to generation, and yes, I have mine.

Perfect (Every time, will never fail, no matter what) White Rice

The first layer of mystery that I will unravel deals with the question, ‘What is the correct ratio of water to rice?” The answer is, “I have no idea”. My method requires no measuring cups and the rice will turn out perfect.

Directions: Start with a heavy saucepan. Le Creuset pans are perfect, Calphalon works well or my family’s favorite rice pot was and old cast iron pot with a heavy lid. This was ‘the rice pan’ and used for nothing else. Add rice to the pan. As a guide, about 1 cup of uncooked rice will serve 4 people.

I used to wash the rice before cooking by filling the pan of rice with water, sloshing it around with my hand and then tipping the pan and pouring the water out. I would rinse in this way 4-5 times. This would remove most of the starch that makes rice sticky. I think this was originally done also because rice used to contain small rocks and in some countries, even bugs. Today’s packaged rice is clean and the rinsing step serves only to reduce the starch. I also find that my favorite type of rice when cooking plain rice, is Jasmine. I have reduced the rinsing step to rinsing only once or twice because I think too much rinsing compromises the taste of Jasmine rice. I would probably omit this step all together, except that old habits are hard to break.

Place the pan of rice under the faucet and add enough cold water until the water reaches the first knuckle of your extended finger just touching the top of the rice. It doesn’t matter how much rice you put in the pan, this measurement will work every time. Place the pan on the stove and add a couple pinches or shakes of salt. Bring to a boil. Let the rice boil until all the water has cooked away and small holes appear on the surface. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to the lowest setting for 30 minutes. Do not under any circumstance lift the lid until the rice is done. I actually don’t know if this would ruin the rice, but I have been aptly warned by my ancestors to never, ever commit this crime, and of course, I never will.

So there you have it. The secret to perfect rice every time, regardless of how many servings.

Now let’s explore a few rice recipes that incorporate other ingredients and that require different preparations.

Risottos are one of our favorite rice preparations. Creamy and rich, risotto is prepared in quite a different manner than other rice dishes. Risottos begin by sautéing onions in oil and then the rice, aborio, is added and sautéed until the grains of rice turn opaque. A little wine is added and cooked off to impart just a nuance and then hot chicken stock is added in small amounts, simmered away and then added again until the rice becomes creamy and still a little firm.

Pilaf begins the same way as risotto up until the wine addition. Chicken stock and sometimes fruit are added to the rice, then the pan is covered and cooked at a low temperature for about 25 minutes. When the pilaf is done, it is fluffed and fresh herbs and toasted nuts can be added.

This month we have a spectacular risotto recipe, ‘Risotto with Fresh Mushrooms’. This is a fabulous accompaniment to any poultry entrée. ‘Risotto Pancakes’ is a great way to use leftover risotto, if you should ever find yourself with leftover risotto. Our recipe for ‘Rice Balls’ requires first boiling the rice then mixing it with egg and cheese. The mixture is then formed into balls and stuffed with soft mozzarella cheese, prociutto and basil and then fried…delicious and a hit with children.

Try these great rice recipes to spice up your side dish repertoire.

Brown Rice with Scallions & Pecans
Chorizo and Rice Stuffing
Jamaican Rice and Beans
Lemon Pistachio Pilaf
Paella
Rice w/Pork, Sausage & Vegetables
Southwest Rice with Ancho Chiles
Wild Rice with Shrimp
Vegetable Timballo
Rice & Eggplant Lasagna

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