RICE YOU’LL BE PROUD TO SERVE

Rinse it in a strainer un­til the wa­ter runs clear, con­sider toast­ing it, too

Ottawa Citizen - - YOU - BECKY KRYS­TAL

It sounds so easy, but some­times it’s not: A pot of rice.

I ad­mit to strug­gling with this, of­ten bounc­ing be­tween batches with grains burned on the bot­tom (and not in the good way as with bibim­bap or crispy Per­sian rice) and oth­ers with a gummy, un­ap­peal­ing tex­ture — more of­ten when it goes wrong it’s gummy rather than the burnt.

Now I know some peo­ple swear by a rice cooker. And if you do, great! But I don’t make rice of­ten enough to jus­tify own­ing one, nor do I have room for yet another ap­pli­ance. So the pot it is.

Of course, your ideal rice may be dif­fer­ent from my ideal rice — in­di­vid­ual grains, aro­matic, not soggy and at home un­der a va­ri­ety of meals, es­pe­cially cur­ries and stir-fries. You may like to use a dif­fer­ent type of rice, or use it in a dif­fer­ent type of dish. It’s all good. I just won’t be able to get into every sin­gle pos­si­bil­ity here.

If you’re like me, how­ever, and in search of a bet­ter all-pur­pose pot of rice, here are some tips to con­sider:

Un­der­stand what you’re look­ing at in the gro­cery store. Rice typ­i­cally is cat­e­go­rized ac­cord­ing to shape and size as long-, medi­u­mor short-grain. The sizes re­fer to how long the grains are in re­la­tion to their width, from long and ten­der to short and rounded.

Ex­am­ples of long-grain rice are bas­mati, jas­mine and Carolina Gold. They are less starchy and cook up bet­ter into in­di­vid­ual grains. This is what I turn to most, and bas­mati is my favourite va­ri­ety for its aro­matic but not over­pow­er­ing flavour.

Medium- and short-grain, which cook up stick­ier, tend to run into each other in terms of how they ’re cat­e­go­rized, but va­ri­eties in­clude ar­bo­rio (used in risotto), bomba (used in paella) and sushi rice.

Brown rice is to white rice what whole-wheat flour is to white flour, in that brown rice has not had the outer (brown) bran and germ re­moved.

Other items you’ll see on the shelf: Trendy black rice (an un­pro­cessed ver­sion of Ja­pa­nese sticky rice) and wild rice (not ac­tu­ally rice, but a grass).

Play with the ra­tios of rice to wa­ter. Tra­di­tion says 2 cups (500 mL) of wa­ter to 1 cup of rice. I al­most al­ways find this re­sults in rice that is too wet for my taste. I’m more in the camp of 1 2/3 to 1 3/4 cup (410-430 mL) of wa­ter to 1 cup of rice.

Your ideal ra­tio may also de­pend on the size of your pot and how much rice you’re cook­ing, es­pe­cially when it comes to scal­ing up.

As Cook’s Il­lus­trated ex­plains, rice can only ab­sorb so much wa­ter, and only so much wa­ter will evap­o­rate in cook­ing. If you try to pro­por­tion­ally scale up the wa­ter your rice cooks in, you will likely end up with some mushy rice.

For ex­am­ple, in dou­bling their rice pi­laf recipe, which calls for 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) rice and 2 1/4 cups (560 mL) of wa­ter, they ended up us­ing only 3 3/4 cup (930 mL) wa­ter rather than 4 1/2 cups (1 L plus 125 mL).

Rinse your rice. This is an im­por­tant step. Ac­cord­ing to Se­duc­tions of Rice: A Cook­book, by Jeffrey Al­ford and Naomi Duguid (Ar­ti­san, 1998), rinsing rice “means that there is no more loose starch or other powder or coat­ing left on the rice that might gum it up or change the tex­ture of the cooked rice.”

Use cold wa­ter to rinse the rice un­til the wa­ter runs clear. I do this by putting the rice in a fine-mesh strainer and hold­ing it un­der the faucet. As soon as the wa­ter fil­ter­ing through is no longer milky-look­ing, you’re good to go. Set the strainer over a bowl for a few min­utes to let any ex­cess wa­ter drain.

Some peo­ple make a case against rinsing en­riched rices, which have been coated with a powder to pro­vide ex­tra nu­tri­ents. Al­ford and Duguid write that “we feel that since in North Amer­ica we have ac­cess to a wide range of veg­eta­bles and other foods, the loss is not crit­i­cal.” They rec­om­mend do­ing what­ever you’re com­fort­able with, but they fall on the side of rinsing to achieve bet­ter tex­ture.

Con­sider toast­ing the rice. The ben­e­fits are twofold. You’ll get fluffy and light rice, plus the ad­di­tion of some won­der­ful nutty flavour. Try it with a lit­tle but­ter or olive oil over medium-low to medium heat in the pot be­fore you add the wa­ter. If you want to get fancy, you can add some aro­mat­ics (gar­lic, onion) or spices for ad­di­tional flavour.

Pay at­ten­tion and be pa­tient. Like pasta, you may want to check the done­ness of the rice a few min­utes be­fore the end of the cook time rec­om­mended on the pack­age. Ide­ally you’ll see lit­tle craters on the sur­face from where the steam has cooked out.

You don’t want to vig­or­ously stir, but push a lit­tle rice aside and take a look un­der­neath. Is there wet, mushy rice lower down? Then try a piece. The rice may feel done, or it may need a bit more time.

Once you’re sat­is­fied, Al­ford and Duguid rec­om­mend let­ting the rice rest for a bit after it fin­ishes cook­ing, about 10 to 15 min­utes, after briefly lift­ing the lid to let steam es­cape. Last step: Fluff with a fork and en­joy.

STACY ZARIN GOLD­BERG/FOR THE WASH­ING­TON POST

Serve bet­ter rice every time by fol­low­ing th­ese few sim­ple tips.

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