Editor’s note: There is a lot of talk about hacking these days, in terms of gaining illegal access to a computer. A hack is also a tip, a trick, or an efficient way of doing something. Along those lines, A Taste of Mind will offer intermittent “food hacks”. To make life easier…
We lived in Asia for a total of fifteen years in two separate cycles. First in Singapore for three years, followed by an interim three years in the Mediterranean, followed by twelve years in Taiwan.
Throughout Asia, the daily carbohydrate staple is, obviously, rice.
As a child who grew up in the American Midwest our daily carbohydrate was the potato. When my mother tried to spiff up evening meals by serving rice, we shunned the tasteless pile of grain. In frustration, she resorted to sprinkling sugar over it. Which made things worse.
Fast forward to Singapore where rice and noodles became a regular part of the family diet. It was presented in many delicious ways as a base to vegetables or bits of meat. Our son and daughter learned the dexterity of handling chopsticks at tender ages. Three-year-old Lara had her own style. Holding a chopstick in each fist, she pinched food between the two ends. With some luck, it eventually reached her mouth.
For me, making rice was always a guessing game–ratios of water to rice, cooking time, lid or no lid, rice cooker or no rice cooker. Finally, it was our Taiwanese helper, Alon, who showed me that preparing perfect rice requires only one thing–an index finger.
The index finger method works for any kind of rice–white, brown, red, black or multi-grain. It works in any size pot. It works over gas, electricity or induction heat. It is the best way to prepare fluffy, un-sticky rice.
Perfect rice can be made this simple way at home or even in a restaurant.
Here’s an example. While hanging out one morning at my friend Laurel’s small Paris restaurant, Treize, she wondered aloud how to cook the large amount rice needed for the lunch special. I offered to show her the foolproof-hack method. When you know the chef/owner and it’s an open kitchen, the answer is “Sure, go ahead!” And that’s how a Charleston cook learned to make perfectly cooked red rice to accompany southern black beans.
PERFECT RICE HACK
- 1 cooking pot and lid, any size
- rice of choice, optional to rinse first
- Place any amount of rice into cooking pot.
- Add water to cover and stir gently until floating rice grains settle on bottom.
- Gently touch the tip of your index finger on the top layer of rice.
- Continue adding water until water level reaches the line of the first joint.
- Place uncovered pot over high heat. [Sometimes I add a drizzle of olive oil or vegetable bouillon cube for flavor.]
- When water begins to boil, adjust heat to continue boiling gently at lower setting.
- When there is no water visible and the surface of the rice shows craters, immediately turn heat to lowest setting and cover with a lid.
- Set timer for exactly 5 minutes.
- Turn off heat when timer buzzes.
There you are. No fussy measurements. Just a finger joint level of cooking water. And a timer. Rice is ready immediately or will stay warm under cover until ready to serve.
For small amounts of rice, the cooking is very fast, only a few minutes. For larger amounts with more water to boil away, keep an eye on it until it’s time for the final five minutes.
For heavier rice grains like black, red or multigrain, I measure water to just above the line of my index joint. Somehow it always seems to work.
Because I don’t measure rice there is always more for another meal. I found a new recipe for leftover rice called Torta di Riso. Credit to Sasha Martin from her memoir Life from Scratch.
TORTA DI RISO
- 6 slices bacon, chopped [can be omitted]
- 1 T. olive oil, plus more for baking dish
- 1 chopped onion
- 3 C. leftover cooked rice [any kind]
- 6 eggs, lightly beaten
- ½ C. grated parmesan cheese [or more]
- ¼ C. chopped parsley [or more]
- Red pepper flakes, optional
- Sauté bacon in olive oil until fat begins to render. Add onion. Sauté until it turns light brown. Set aside.
- In large bowl, place rice, cheese, eggs, parsley, salt and pepper. [Can add chopped up spinach for more green.]
- Stir in slightly cooled onion mixture.
- Pour into lightly oiled 8×8 inch casserole.
- Bake 400 F. or 205 C. for 35 minutes or until golden brown on top.
- Cool 15 minutes.
- Cut into squares or diamonds.
- Serve room temperature or cold.
Torta di Riso is a nourishing finger food snack. It’s great for picnics or hikes.