Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Starch...A Fear....and Now A Friend

Rice, aside from dough, has always been something that I found intimidating. While my mom always made a perfect pot of yellow rice and gandules (pigeon peas), and has managed to teach each of my siblings how to successfully pull off this family staple, I was never so lucky. In culinary school we had a class entitled Legumes and Grains, however I was very ill and was unable to make it to class that day. Go figure, the only class I ever missed covered the thing I feared most! Till this day I can't believe I missed my opportunity to learn how to make a perfect pot of rice, not to mention the class covered risotto!

Fortunately for me (and the thousands like me) there is "The Rice Cooker"--a convenient kitchen appliance that makes perfect rice in minutes without the fuss. Although I depend on this machine, I know deep inside I should learn how to perfect rice the good old fashion way! Something tells me that there would come a time when I would be asked to make it with only a pot--The Nerve! Don't get me wrong, I know the how to's on making rice, but today I am attempting to make a batch!

First I measured 2 cups of long grain rice and rinsed it until the water ran clear.

Secondly, I added it to my pot, with about a tbs of canola oil and a nice pinch of salt.

Next, I added coconut milk (I am making jerk chicken and carrots today) and then some water. You just want to make sure the liquid covers the rice by an 1 inch at least.

On medium high heat cook rice, without stirring. Soon the rice will absorb the liquid and little dimples or craters in the rice will appear. At this point place pan cover over pot and cook on simmer for 15 minutes more.

Lastly shut off heat and fluff with fork. Serve warm.

Not bad I must say, and it tasted delicious, and no rice cooker needed!

In fact, I took my quest for perfecting rice further and made rice pudding. I must give you the recipe as its equally delicious!!! And a fantastic day to reward yourself for a job well done!

1 quart of milk
2 slices of lemon peel or zest
1 cinanmon stick
a pinch of salt
Simmer above until little bubbles warm and ingredients let out their perfumes.

Add 1/4 cup of long grain rice
Stir for a few minutes to prevent it from sticking. After this point stir every 15/20 minutes for a 2 hour period. (I know, but guaranteed it's worth it!)

Add 1/2 cup sugar (may vary on taste) during the last 15 minutes along with to a tsp of Frangelico (hazelnut liquor) and some Barcardi Rum.

Shut off heat and add raisins....I added regular and golden raisins

Allow to cool and enjoy!!!

Now if I can only perfect my mom's yellow rice and beans!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Simmering Pot of Goodness!

There is just something comforting about having a pot simmering away in the kitchen. Sometimes the smell of chicken stock simmering makes me happy, today it's the smell of onions caramelizing. Considering that I work late most evenings, I think of ways that would make me be able to still cook at home and pack away food for a weeknight where I want something light and comforting. Fortunately, having the morning to myself allows me to prepare such small masterpieces!

This morning I decided to make French Onion Soup! A classic in every since of the word. It's a recipe that is extremely simple, in fact a real recipe is not even needed! Simply slice about 5-6 onions into thin half moons and set aside. Meanwhile get a large stock pot or cast iron and place about 4-5 tablespoons of butter and about a quarter size of olive oil. (The oil will prevent the butter from burning) When the butter has melted add the onions, a pinch of salt and about a tablespoon or so of sugar to help caramelize the onions. Over a nice medium-low heat allow the onions to brown gently. You don't want to walk away completely, but you definitely do not want to continuously stir as you will cause steaming instead of browning. Every now and then move the onions around to make sure they aren't burning and to ensure that all the onions pick up that rich deep color and deepness of flavor we are trying to achieve. After about 20 minutes or so, they should be golden and delicious! (You can also cool them at this point and use as an onion marmalade on top of crostinis or as a condiment on burgers etc!) Next, add about a tablespoon or so of flour and cook for about 2 minutes, then deglaze with white wine or dry sherry. Remember to only use a wine that you would actually enjoy! Continue to cook until most of the wine has evaporated and left all those delicious hints of flavor!!! Lastly add your stock. Depending on whether you made this or not (hopefully you have!) you will need to adjust your seasoning/amount of liquid you add. If its too salty you may have to dilute it a bit with water. Remember as things simmer/reduce the flavors intensify so allow the soup to continue cooking and at the end readjust the seasoning. Meanwhile toast some good, flavorful rustic bread (love the bread from Di Palo's in Little Italy, Balthazar's or Amy's Bread!) with olive oil and top with good quality, self grated Gruyere cheese.

Now the part we have been patiently awaiting for--serve yourself a big bowl, topped with the cheesy baguette and enjoy! Hmmm.........delicious! Or cool to room temp and refrigerate or freeze this way you have a comforting warm meal awaiting you after a long day's work! Now that is good stuff!