Rice can be an unsung hero at times -- taken for granted, treated as merely a bed on which to lay more interesting food, or as filler, say, in a burrito. It's an everyday item, thus we often forget to appreciate the many roles it can play in our kitchens.
But Martha Stewart, in her infinite wisdom, reminded us of rice's greatness in this weekend's episode of Martha Stewart's Cooking School, showing not just how many varieties there are to choose from, but explaining how to best use each one.
Martha began her lesson by explaining what we already know: that there are two main types of rice -- white and brown. She continued with something we may not know: that white rice is milled while brown rice is unmilled.
She then went over the main types of rice we should all be familiar with. They break down as follows:
Long grain white rice: The most commonly used variety in the United States.
Jasmine: Often used in Asian and Indian cooking, and in rice pudding.
Basmati: An extra long grain that's aged to reduce moisture and used primarily in Indian cooking.
Long grain brown rice: Similar to its white counterpart, but still has its bran and its germ, making it more nutritious.
Short grain brown rice: Has a nutty flavor and works well for cooking that uses the absorption method.
Arborio: Used for risotto and rice pudding.
Sushi rice: Also known as glutenous or pearl rice, and holds together well when cooked.
Black rice: Also known as purple rice,
forbidden ricetribute rice or longevity rice due to the Chinese legend that it was so rare and nutritious that only the emperor could eat it.
Bamboo: Very difficult to find. Not sure why she brought it up.
Wild rice: Not actually a grain but a seed from a wild grass.
It certainly pays to have a pantry well-stocked with a few different rice varieties, since this episode made quite clear to anyone who may have doubted: not all rice is created equal. Different ones have different purposes and flavors, so one ought to choose their rice wisely. Armed with that knowledge, Martha demonstrated three rice-based dishes, all of which employed a different type. On the next page are recipes courtesy of the Martha Stewart camp.
1 1/2 cups stock (chicken, vegetable, or beef) or water
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup minced onion or shallot
1 cup long-grain white rice
1 small dried bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Bring stock to a simmer in a small saucepan.
2. Melt butter in a 2-quart ovenproof saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, and cook until soft and translucent, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes.
3. Add rice, bay leaf, and salt and stir well to coat each grain with butter mixture. Cook until rice is fragrant and starting to turn translucent, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes.
4. Add stock and return to a simmer. Transfer to oven, cover, and bake 16 minutes. Remove from oven. Cover and let steam for 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork before serving.
For the Stock:
1 rib celery, cut in half crosswise
1 medium carrot, cut in half crosswise
1/2 small onion, peeled
1 garlic clove, smashed and peeled
1 sprig flat-leaf parsley
7 cups water, or half water and half chicken stock
For the Risotto:
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 small onion, diced fine (about 1/3 cup)
1 cup short-grain Italian rice, such as Arborio, Carnaroli, or Vialone Nano
1/3 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
Flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling (optional)
1. Combine stock ingredients in a 4-quart stockpot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes. Reduce heat to the lowest setting to keep stock hot but not evaporating.
2. In another 4-quart pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Cook onion until translucent, stirring, about 2 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring, until just starting to turn translucent (rice will start making a clicking sound), 1 to 2 minutes. Reduce heat if onion begins to brown.
3. Pour in wine and cook, stirring, just until absorbed (rice should be wet and glistening, not dry). Using a ladle, add 1/2 cup hot stock to the rice. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon, at a moderate speed, until about 3/4 of the liquid is absorbed (the mixture should be thick enough to hold a trail behind the spoon). Continue adding stock, 1/2 cup at a time, and stirring frequently until rice is almost translucent (the rice should be al dente but not crunchy, and liquid is creamy in consistency). As rice nears doneness, watch carefully and add smaller amounts of liquid to make sure it doesn't overcook (you may not need to use all the broth). The process should take 20 to 25 minutes total.
4. Stir in butter until completely melted (this is called mounting), then stir in cheese and season with salt and pepper. Garnish with parsley and drizzle with oil, if desired; serve immediately.
Thai Fried Rice
2 tablespoons peanut oil
4 to 8 cloves garlic, minced (or more if not using optional ingredients)
1 to 2 ounces thinly sliced boneless pork (optional)
2 cups cold cooked rice (preferably Thai jasmine)
1 cup torn Asian greens (such as cabbage, mustard greens, or bok choy)
2 teaspoons Thai fish sauce, or to taste
Garnish and accompaniments:
1/4 cup fresh coriander leaves
6 thin cucumber slices
1 small scallion, trimmed and thinly sliced on the bias (optional)
2 lime wedges
1/4 cup Thai Fish Sauce with Hot Chiles (recipe follows)
1. Heat a large heavy wok over high heat. When it is hot, add oil and heat until very hot. Add garlic and stir-fry until just golden, about 20 seconds. Add pork, if using, and cook, stirring constantly, until all the pork has changed color completely, about 1 minute.
2. Add rice, breaking it up with wet fingers as you toss it into wok. With your spatula, keep moving rice around wok. At first it may stick, but keep scooping and tossing it and soon it will be more manageable. Fry rice, sometimes pressing against wok with back of spatula. (Good fried rice should have a faint seared-in-the-wok taste.) Cook for about 30 seconds. Add greens, then fish sauce, and stir-fry for 30 to 60 seconds.
3. Turn out onto a plate and garnish with coriander, cucumber slices, scallion, and lime wedges. Squeeze lime onto rice as you eat it, along with chile sauce -- the salty, hot taste of the sauce brings out the full flavor of the rice.
Thai Fish Sauce With Hot Chiles
Makes about 1 cup
1/2 cup red Thai chiles, stems removed
1 cup Thai fish sauce
1. Place chiles in a food processor and pulse to finely chop (stop before they are mush). Or, wearing rubber gloves to protect your hands, use a cleaver or sharp knife to mince chiles on a cutting board.
2. Transfer minced chiles (with their seeds) to a glass or plastic container and add fish sauce. Cover and store in refrigerator. The sauce will keep indefinitely, losing chile heat over time; top it up with extra chiles or fish sauce when it runs low. Serve in small individual condiment bowls.
As is the tradition, it was our turn to give Martha's rice methods a whirl. See how we did after the jump.
We suffered a handicap this week in that we weren't in our own kitchen. Had we been, risotto would have been on the menu so that we could finally tap into all that vegetable stock hiding out in our freezer. But we were at a family dinner where London Broil was on the menu for the night, so rice pilaf seemed the right choice.
Short list of ingredients, easy preparation -- rice pilaf should have been a snap, right? And it likely would have been had we followed the one unspoken tenant of rice cookery: make sure you have enough rice before you start cooking. The organic, free-range chicken stock (sadly, from a carton) was simmering, the butter melting, the onion sweating, when we poured the rice out to find we only had half a cup. Sigh. Time to adjust.
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When the time was right, we poured half the stock into the pot, resolving that we'd simply have oniony pilaf. The flavor turned out well -- somehow the dish wasn't over-onioned. (Even a two-year-old ate it and had no complaints.) The challenge of haphazardly halving the recipe, though, came in the oven, since we weren't sure how long it should stay in. Half the time proved an incorrect guess, as the rice was a bit underdone. But again, a two-year-old ate it, and had no complaints.
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