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Basic Techniques #1: Perfect and fluffy long grain rice (and a Cilantro Lime Rice recipe)

January 7, 2013

cilantro lime rice

I have a few goals for 2013 when it comes to this blog, and one of them is to add a couple of different kinds of posts including posts that have collections of recipes as well as cooking basics posts. The basics posts will be my wisdom/experience on, well, basics.  It seemed appropriate for the first one to be rice. Regular cooked rice has been my nemesis for a long time. Not only does Elias consider rice to be the essential part of a meal — (I’m serious with this one, you could serve the man a chicken breast, pile of broccoli, some fruit salad and bowl of soup and he’d say  — “When are we having dinner?”) I have over and under cooked rice a million times. The main problem, in my view, is that most recipes ask you to simmer the rice for X number of minutes. This is fine and dandy, but if your flame is too high or too low, it’s either not enough or too much time. To cook great rice, one needs to practice and find the combination of flame and time that works for you. Another other essential to perfect rice? No taking the lid off. Not even when it’s done! (I like to leave the lid on my cooked rice for at least 10 minutes with the flame off. This yields dry, fluffy rice, which is the rice my Colombian husband prefers. It’s very much the opposite of the sticky short rice that comes with Chinese food. (Also good, just not this.)

Here’s my technique. Give it a try and let me know your experience!

Perfect Long Grain Rice  (Yields approximately 2 cups of cooked rice)

Ingredients:

1 cup extra long grain rice

1 and 3/4 cups water (or broth)

Salt

Procedure 

1. Rinse the rice under cold water for a minute or two. (Some say you have to soak it, I don’t agree, but again, use the comments section for tips)

2. Bring the rice, water and salt (I use about 1 teaspoon, but it’s definitely a matter of taste) to a boil over high heat.

3. Once the water is boiling, immediately put a tight-fitting (better if it’s glass) lid on the rice and turn the flame down to medium.

4. Simmer the rice until the following is true (for me it’s about 20 minutes)

i. There is no longer large puffs of steam billowing from the sides pot  (when it’s done there may be a tiny bit of steam coming     from   the side, but you’d have to really work to see it.)

ii. All of the water has been boiled out (don’t lift the lid to check. If you’re not sure, rely on the steam cue) 

ii. There are little holes in the rice, and you can see the bottom of the pot through them. (Again, through the glass, don’t lift to check.

5. When the rice is done cooking, turn off the flame, but do not lift the lid. (This is crucial in my method). Leave the lid on for 10 minutes at least, but up to 1/2 hour (I like to make the rice before preparing the rest of dinner and then just leave it there until dinner is done)

6. Remove the lid and fluff with a fork.

Other Tricks and tips when it comes to rice:

1. Take it from someone who has burned a lot of rice and had a lot of soggy tough rice: When something goes wrong with rice, you will know about it if you are paying attention. If it’s starting to burn, you will start to see it first (no more steam at all), then you will hear it (starts to sizzle) then you will smell it. (Obvious burned rice “I’m a failure in life” smell.) I became  great at cooking rice  because I started to pay lots of attention to it. It really is true that the simplest things are sometimes the hardest to master

2. The same is true for undercooking it. You can tell. If there’s still a lot of steam coming out or there are little pools of water in those holes I’m talking about, it’s not done.

3. On flavoring rice: I’m about to put my technique for cilantro lime rice, which is the basis for our burrito bowls, and a side to a whole host of wonderful thing. We also make a variety of other flavored rices (plain rice every day = boring.) My preference is usually to cook the rice first, and then to add other things (including butter) to the cooked rice. I find the added flavors are much brighter and stronger that way. Furthermore, sometimes if added ingredients are included while the rice is cooking, they just end up on the top and it makes the rice weird.

Cilantro-Lime Rice  (Easy as pie, once you master the “making the rice” part!) 

This rice is a perfect accompaniment to  Slow Cooker Pollo CriolloSweet Potato, Black Bean and Caramelized Onion Tacos, or Pollo Sudado/Colombian Chicken Stew !

Ingredients 

2 Cups of Cooked Extra Long Grain Rice

2 TBS butter, melted

Juice of one lime

1/2 c. cilantro, finely chopped

Salt, to taste

Procedure 

Combine melted butter, lime juice and chopped cilantro.

Poor over hot rice and stir to combine.

Taste and add additional salt, if needed.

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