Cooking rice confounds legions of people, so I am always on the prowl for impossible-to-fail rice recipes. Here are three reliable – and very different – ways to cook rice.
Recipe: Dumbed-Down Rice (Photo: Vladimir Arndt / iStock / Thinkstock)
When I am the first one to come home hungry, I bring a pot of salted water to a boil, throw in a handful of rice and cook it like pasta (i.e., boil it like hell). Then I drain it and eat it almost immediately. I will admit it is not the optimal way to treat a nice cup of rice.
Rice needs to rest. It needs to relax, luxuriate and reassemble into the perfect grain that it is at its very essence.
In my more organized moments, I turn to the pilaf treatment, where rice is gently cooked in butter with spices and gets a nice rest on the back of the stove while the rest of the dinner is coming together.
For years I have used a pilaf technique from Deborah Madison’s masterful The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. The rice is simmered on top of the stove with spices until most of the liquid is gone, then finished off the heat with a towel snuggled between the pot and the lid. It is a patient, foolproof recipe. It is designed for the dinner party; it can be made hours in advance and fluffed with a gentle reheat whenever you need it.
Ottolenghi's recipe: Lemon and Curry Leaf Rice (Photo: Plenty More)
I have just discovered another treasure from -- yes, you guessed it -- Yotam Ottolenghi’s latest book, Plenty More. (He is truly unstoppable.)
The recipe is Lemon and Curry Leaf Rice, but don’t let those ingredients scare you off. His technique, while seeming strange, works beautifully. Basmati rice is soaked and then spread on a rimmed baking sheet. Water and spices are brought to a boil, then poured over the rice. A layer of waxed paper is laid directly on top of the rice, a layer of foil on top of that seals it all in and then the pan is popped into the oven. What emerges is perfectly cooked rice redolent of spices. The grains are separate and distinctive. No oil is involved until the end with the final fluffing, and then only if you desire. Essentially perfect.
While his recipe calls for curry leaf, cinnamon, cloves and lemon, you could easily scent the rice with just the lemon, bay leaves, fresh herbs, cardamom or saffron, or simply steam it solo.
Add this one to your collection of master recipes.
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Sally Swift is the managing producer and co-creator of The Splendid Table. Before developing the show, she worked in film, video and television, including stints at Twin Cities Public Television, Paisley Park, and Comic Relief with Billy Crystal. She also survived a stint as segment producer on The Jenny Jones Show.