One of the most useful appliances to own is a rice cooker, and a cheap but healthy thing to buy in bulk is rice. With brown rice being all the rage, as well as "gourmet" blends, there's even more reason to buy yourself pounds of it in all sorts of varieties. The question becomes, "what do I do with it?" Well, plenty!
First of all, what sorts of rice should you buy? The enormous long-grain white rice bags you can buy are tempting, but I usually prefer short grain given my two favorite styles to cook in-- Japanese and Italian. Any kind you like are fine. Though brown rice is fashionable, if you prefer the taste of white rice, the health benefits aren't THAT far apart. As well, you can buy hybrid rice either at specialty stores or online that taste the same as white rice, well, in my opinion better, but are about as healthy as brown. Here are some brands of rice that are really great.
rice: A good, cheap short grain rice with a variety of uses. These days you can find it in most Asian Foods sections. Best of all, they also have cooked varieties
for both types! 30 seconds in the microwave and you have enough for any single meal. I buy it right from our local grocery store (stop n shop) and it's a good rice.
Kagayaki Haiga Rice: Harder to find! But it's really good. Slightly sweet and almost the same health benefits as plain brown rice. So delicious!
Royal Basmati Rice: Not expensive and has a delicious flavor! It's one of the best long grain rices you can find. For any basmati rice, look for it in a cool bag like this. Not only is it more authentic and likely to have a better flavor, it's also great for recycling around the house. I always used them for art supplies, and they're big enough to hold sketchbooks. The bags are substancial enough to use for just about any purpose. A must is to cook it with with a bit of salt and extra virgin olive oil.
ABOUT OLIVE OIL: Don't waste your time buying any other type of olive oil. All of the brands taste different, but whatever you buy, don't bother with the "light" olive oil. It isn't any better no matter how it's advertised and the health benefits are significantly worse, plus it has next to no flavor and you end up using more of it with less effect. If you dislike the strong flavor, add vegetable oil to it and save yourself some money. This way you can use it in your cooking and also have a stronger type so you can add flavor to pasta sauces without adding loads of it.
Other Varieties: I haven't ever had a "bad" rice. Don't worry about taking a risk trying other types. Just buy it in small batches if you've never used it before. Some exotic brown rices are very hard to cook and not very practical for anything other than a side dish, so keep that in mind if you're having company and want to impress them. Also, keep in mind its color. Having a brown curry with red rice is a plate full of the same color and it isn't as appealing as serving it over white or yellow rice. Eating attractive food is always a good idea, since you'll be less hungry and psychologically feel like you had a better meal in pretty much every way.
Arborio rice? --You can only make risotto with this. Don't even try to use it for other things. Also, don't cook it in the rice maker. It may say you can, but don't waste your time. Use another sort of short grain rice to cook like that. Some people might argue with me, but you're reading my livejournal so you should listen to me.
So you have your rice. How do you cook it? For any of the sushi rice I advised buying, cook it with water, no oil, no salt. Most rice tastes better rinsed, but you may not want to rinse brown rice as it is healthier that way, even if the texture is more gritty.
There is no magic, secret way to add the right amount of water, salt or oil to cook your rice. Follow the directions on the package to the letter. If it has none for rice cookers, look it up through google. It doesn't matter the brand, the type should be close enough, especially if they don't bother to tell you how to cook it that way. If you think you can add the right amount of water without measuring, go ahead and try. Making larger batches is harder to cook than smaller batches and may require slight adjustment, but it shouldn't matter that much.
Another good idea is to have things to color food around the house. One of my favorite food colors is Golden Yellow
(yellow-orange), and you can usually find it around thanksgiving time for people who want to make fall color sort of cookies or cakes. Wilton
is the standard and buy icing colors. They aren't flavored and they last longer-- to add color, use a toothpick and dip it in the color, then swirl it in your food. The secret to making yellow rice without saffron that doesn't taste so much like turmeric that it overpowers the natural flavor of your rice is to add a pinch of it and then use a yellow orange food coloring.
To cook rice for sushi, don't add anything to it. You're supposed to transfer it to another bowl, prefferably wooden, and while it's still warm add sushi vinegar in whatever amount specified or to taste. I generally do not add anything to it, even if I'm using it for sushi. The most important thing for sushi rice is that it must be rinsed carefully or it will not have the right texture. It's very hard (for me) to use brown rice for normal maki rolls, but it's fine for a hand roll.
Once it's cooked, a fine way to store it is to use small bags that are good for freezing in convenient amounts and microwave them. It's also fine to put the rice cooker in the fridge if it is easilly removed from the electric base. This is another reason i rarely add vinegar to my short grain rice. It's much easier to use rice that doesn't taste strongly for other purposes.
It's suitable to eat rice with every meal and in many countries is eaten all day no matter if it's breakfast, lunch or dinner. One way to do it is to have plain white rice in a little bowl that you don't mix with your main dish and season minimally. Pick the bowl up and eat it with whatever you prefer to use as a utencil. As a kid, I liked to eat rice with a spoon.
But if you want to leave your rice to get drier and drier in the fridge and want to eat it before it goes totally stale without just eating plain rice every day, you have a lot of options.
The more dry rice is, the better it is for frying. Though fried rice is a coveted chineese resturaunt dish in america, it would be insulting to serve guests fried rice if they came to your home since it's a way of using crappy rice and random leftovers in your fridge.
Also: Without everything as it is in the resturaunt, it is unlikely you could make fried rice taste exactly like your favorite place for take-out, but you shouldn't at all aspire to make that. If you could see what goes into it, you probably wouldn't want to eat it anymore anyway.
To make fried rice, add a bit of oil in a pan and take cold rice that is at least a day old. Before putting it in the pan, break it up so it's indivisual pieces and not a big lump. Add salt and brown the rice. Once brown, add whatever the hell you want to the side. Chopped sausage, onions, peppers, pineapple and especially fried egg are good choices. Cube leftovers if it suits the flavor. You can scramble the fried egg right in the same pan if you move your browned rice to one side and then whip the two together once it's cooked. I often make it by frying bacon until no part is squishy, wiping the pan down so there's less than a teaspoon but more than a film left over, adding my rice and then crumbles of bacon. Pineapple tastes great with this.
For traditional fried rice you do not add soy sauce, but you may add it afterwords as a condiment once it's cooked, the same way you'd salt food if it isn't as salty as you'd like. You may be shocked how good it tastes without it.
But don't worry about just making asian dishes! Although risotto is made in a specific way, by browning it in oil uncooked and adding broth, you can eat it like pasta. Here's my favorite way:
chop garlic. Fresh garlic is so cheap and it keeps a long time like onions or potatoes, which you should also have plenty of sitting around. No need to mince it until it's been reduced to atoms. It need only be small enough to flavor the food. Heat olive oil in a pan on high. The pan should in no way be smoking. When you add the garlic, the frying noise should not be able to wake the dead and the garlic should not instantly char to black. I know I'm instructing people who don't typically cook, but be reasonable! It should, however, clearly be cooking the garlic and you should see a reaction in the pan. Meaning the garlic shouldn't just be sitting there waiting in vain for something to happen. If it is, do not fret. Simply wait until it is obviously cooking, stirring often, and then that's when you can add your rice. If it is cooking, add the rice at once, crumbled as you can as for fried rice.
The rice should also be cold and old. If it isn't, I'll explain how you can cook it afterwards. So right, fold it over in the pan and add salt to it as you do this. Taste it during this process to see if it's salted enough and uniformly warm.
Take a spoonful of sour cream and fold that into the rice until it's coated in it. The rice should be fine to eat now! But I don't stop there.
I cube cheddar cheese (White! I'm cheese-racist, I have an aversion to yellow cheese.) and add a store-bought marinara sauce. Even though they have loads of preservative salt, I find they're never salted enough, so if it was salty enough for you in cream stage it should be good when you add the pasta sauce. It shouldn't be a soup, but it should be sort of thick, enough so you can just pour it right out of the pan into your bowl. You stir it until the cheese melts. The sauce should end up a beautiful pink. Mind you, if it's not actually the color pink, you did no wrong. A pink sauce refers to a cross between a white, or cream sauce and a red, or marinara sauce. Therefore it is "pink", but the actual color is closer to orange. Once it's done, pour it into a bowl and eat with a fork or spoon. Delicious! I also add oregano of an italian seasoning before the cheese is melted but it's fine without. it may not be risotto but it's a delicious dish.
You can use this logic to make many great rice dishes. If it mixes with other things in another recipie, it's probably pretty good with a simpler one that can be made with plain cooked rice.
Have you ever heard of congee? It's rice porridge and it's another good way to eat rice. It's considered a comfort food in many asian countries and many people eat it when they're sick. it is eaten in so many countries
that honestly? You can add just about anything
To be honest I've never done this but if I did, I wouldn't go for chinese style because it's so gooey and frightens me. I'd probably do a sort of fusion style of things that are essencial to it being rice porridge without being EXACTLY congee.
Take your cooked rice. I'd reccomend freshy cooked rice, before it has time to sit. I'd want to save some of it, so I'd keep it sitting in the cooker and spoon however much I prefer into a pot just big enough to expand by about a 4th or so from the amount of cooked rice I add.
Water, Milk or Coconut Milk can be added. Simmer the rice and fluid at the same time, stir frequently to avoid it burning on the bottom, until it looks less like rice and more consistant, like an oatmeal or well, a porridge!
It should be fairly bland, but feel free to add as much salt to it as you like. Green onions or bamboo shoots would sound good to me, maybe even some straw mushrooms, and add a bit of fish sauce to it. Oo, and grated ginger! I'd probably make it the consistancy of Filipino congee
. Since it's such a universal dish, any grain of rice will do, long or short.
In many countries it's eaten with an egg in it. That totally freaks me out, but if you like it, do it. If you have a lot of japanese stuff in your house, sprinkling some bonito flakes would be good, seasoning it as you might plain tofu. So a small amount of soy sauce on the top, seseme seeds, rice flavoring, chopped green onions, scallion, mayo, bonito flakes, whatever. if you can find some farm fresh eggs you could stir in a raw egg too, but that might also freak you out as it does me, but I bet it would be good if you're into that. Quail eggs wouldn't for some reason. You could also hard-boil, scramble or poach an egg for it. Adding salty meats would also be nice, like chopped up chinese cooked pork or like bacon or sausage something. Oh! And chicken would be great, a chicken broth base too. Just keep it simple.
You can also add rice to just about any soups you make! I love to add it to chicken soup, especially wild rice! Mmmm... Don't forget beans and rice! Or curry! Or you can mix it with cheese and add broccoli!
Oh! I said I'd tell you how to make my fake risotto with freshyly cooked rice. No big secret! Just plop it into a bowl while it's hot and add pasta sauce to it! Since it's also a starch, it's fine to eat as you would pasta. Since it's warm, if you mix it it should sort of heat the pasta sauce for a simply made dish. Not bad, eh?