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#1106 - Fundamentals of Rice
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October 16, 2012 #1106 Fundamentals of Rice
When I had the chance to dine with my cousin and her Persian husband last month, I was treated to a dish of saffron rice, carefully prepared in their Persian rice steamer. The results were impressive, and shamed my haphazard ways of cooking rice. So I decided to do a little research and see if I couldn't improve my performance. Here are some issues, and some answers.
Washing the rice: You should pour the rice into a wire strainer, and wash it in no less than four changes of water. You will notice the water getting clearer with each washing. Use you fingers to stir it around; this will remove excess starch.
Soaking: Leaving the rice in cold water for about 30 minutes is good for older rice, and especially Basmati.
Parboiling: For steamed rice, one common step is to bring the washed rice to a boil and let it cook for a few minutes until it just begins to soften. Drain that rice, wash it once more, and then you can put it into the steamer.
To stir or not to stir: If you are making a short grained rice, and you want it to be sticky, by all means stir it. This is mandatory for risotto. But if you want your grains to not be sticky, then do not stir at all. Just dump it in the pot and leave it.
To cover or not to cover: If you maintain a boil, you should cover the pot, keeping in as much steam as you can, otherwise the water will evaporate before the rice is cooked. If you bring it to a boil, then immediately reduce to a simmer - the water is still hot enough, but it will not evaporate as fast, thus you can leave it uncovered. Look for little holes or craters to form on the surface of the rice: this indicates that nearly all of the water has been absorbed. Everyone agrees, after you have cooked away the water, kill the heat, cover it up and let it sit for about 20 minutes. Once you do cover the rice, no peeking! Keep the steam intact and let it do its thing.
How much water: ratios vary from 1 1/2 to 2 times the volume of rice. My personal experience says use 2x. One trick I've seen repeatedly is to pour the rice in first, level it out, then cover it with water to a depth of one inch above the rice.
Infusions: Gordon Ramsey suggests using cardamom pods and star anise to enhance the fragrance of rice. Other ideas: lemon or lime peel, saffron, coconut, green tea, cilantro, lavender.
Al's Perfered Technique for Basmati Rice
1. Wash rice in 4 waters.
2. Use 2x the volume of water.
3. Add pinch of salt, drops of olive oil.
4. Bring water and rice to a boil, do not stir. Reduce heat to lowest simmer, then cover and let it simmer/steam for 20 minutes.
5. After 20 minutes, remove from heat and let it stand, covered, for another 20 minutes, then you can fluff it with a fork. You will have perfect Basmati rice.