Thursday, December 04, 2008

A Perfect Pot of Rice

My house white is basmati. Early morning I measure a cup or more and wash it in a pot. Washing rice is a custom in India: Basmati is traditionally rinsed seven or more times, until the water runs clear. The stated purpose of washing is to rid the rice of excess surface starch, ensuring a lighter cooked grain. I'm all for a lighter grain, but I wash for kicks too.

Here's what I do: I put the rice in the pot. I pour water into the pot and swish the rice around with my fingers. I love this part: Wet rice in my fingers. Think of Audrey Tatou as Amelie, thrusting her hands into a bag of dried lentils. The camera cuts to her face and there she is, full of verve, alive.

After washing, I let the rice soak in water for hours. In his classic book Healing with Whole Foods Paul Pitchford suggests that soaking grains like rice "germinates the dormant energy." I love the thought of this: I go to work and my rice stays at home, leaping forth into a new kind of ricehood. If I had to define the word FoodVibe this would be it: rice, soaking.

When I get home, I discard the soaking water and assemble the dish.

I throw in the water, a little olive oil, ¼ teaspoon turmeric, two garlic cloves, two slices ginger, a few pinches saffron, and a few dashes fleur de sel.

When the rice simmers the kitchen smells like our old place in Barcelona. I envision my wife in a red blouse, tied at the neck, feasting on paella. So I call her into the kitchen, she comes skipping, and I say: I'm making rice! Rice? she says. And then we make love on the kitchen floor, the smell of the cooking rice inspiring romance, possibility, and dinner.

Perfect Pot of Rice

1 cup white basmati rice
1 3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
two whole garlic cloves
two slices fresh ginger
Sea salt

In a medium saucepan, wash the rice in seven or more changes of cool water until the water runs clear. Do so with a sensual fervor that reminds one of the movie Amelie. Cover the rice with cool water and set aside to soak for 30 minutes, or up to 18 hours. (This is called FoodVibing the rice.)

Drain the rice. Throw the water, olive oil, turmeric, garlic cloves, slices ginger, a few pinches saffron, and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt into the pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove the rice from the heat. Remove the lid and put a few paper towels over the pot; cover again and let stand for 5-10 minutes. This last step is utterly essential; resting is crucial.

Fluff with a fork, remove aromatics, and serve.


Rachael said...

Finally, a piece that stresses the importance of washing rice before one cooks it. Having been brought up in an Anglo-Indian household, I grew up assuming everyone knew that rice has to be washed. Imagine my horror, therefore, when I arrived in France and witnessed people doing anything but wash rice. Urgh.

I'll definitely be trying this recipe of yours, Seth. It's not too dissimilar to my dad's pilau recipe.

Seth said...

Hi Rachael,

If they were doing anything but washing the rice what, exactly, were they doing to it?

Washing is important, but I think soaking is equally important. Hopefully you soak too.

I like to go crazy: I soak for TWO days sometimes. The rice comes out more like "Essence of Awesomeness" than regular rice.

Rachael said...

Sadly, nothing remotely entertaining or sordid, Seth...

The French have a nasty habit of boiling unwashed rice in as much salted water as a pan can hold, waiting til it's mush, then draining it (the worst part of it being that they're following the cooking instructions on the rice packet). Naturally they add untold quantities of butter to it, just to make it palatable.

I'm not really one for soaking rice, unless it's for pilau. I'm a beans and pulses soaker.

Seth said...

But you will soak when you try this recipe, right?

I sometimes boil arborio rice in salted water and then toss it with olive oil or raw butter. I call it "Italian Rice." It reminds me of the dish a local Italian restaurant gives me in lieu of pasta (when I tell them I'm allergic to wheat.)

Rachael said...

I will soak the rice when I try my hand at your recipe. Promise.

Candace said...

I love this blog. It reminds me of my insistence upon making rice by myself, without the use of Owen's dreaded ricemaker.

Although, unlike the perfect pot of rice, mine usually turns out like a mostly imperfect pot of rice, which usually has something to do with its consistency, its texture, or my nonchalant, laziness when it came to rinsing or soaking the rice beforehand.

I've now used the ricemaker of my own accord twice, although I still feel like it threatens my kitchen authority: It makes rice perfect, every time. It takes the rice into its hard, teflon womb and jostles playfully each grain until they are puffy, a little sticky, very fluffy, and like I said, perfect every time. Weird. Afterwards, I always want to use the phrase, "deus ex machina". The hand of god allowing a seemingly impossible event to occur, unquestioned. Like a ricemaker loving, caring for, nurturing rice as if it were organic, emotional.

Steve said...

I don't eat much rice. When I do, it is usually of the brown variety. My wife makes it. She never washes it either. I will try this recipe though. You seem so adamant about it.

How about this one:


1/4 cup head or body lice (crabs will work too)1/3 tsp raw butter
sea salt

soak lice for one entire day in warm water until they get soggy, thus shedding their exoskeletons

strain water and all excess body casings, make sure you remove all legs and antennae that have fallen off at this point

let dry, add butter.....

xysea said...

You guys are too much! lol

This is a great re-post, Seth. I adore rice - it's universally one of the ones that seems gentlest on my system and I can always rely on it.

I grew up with traditional rice, then expanded into the realms of basmati, jasmine, and assorted varieties. I had no idea there were so many of them!

Sometimes, if I'm only a little hungry I will make a pot of rice and just have some steamed veggies on the side. It's quick, nutritious and very tasty!


Stephanie said...

"And then we make love on the kitchen floor, the smell of the cooking rice inspiring romance, possibility, and dinner."

That's funny; we have the same response when I make chopped liver.

Seth said...

Hi Stephanie,

Chopped liver is a potent aphrodisiac. I think we can agree, though, the ultimate romantic inspiration is schmaltz.

Stephanie said...

Don't even get me started on the schmaltz, Seth.

Trisha Stewart said...

Seth , I am going to attempt this recipe. Also I don't think I'll ever stand on your kitchen floor again!!!