There’s more than one way to cook rice. While your preferred method may be to use a machine designed for the purpose, should you find yourself with only a saucepan and a lid, learn this method and you’ll still eat. It’s called the pilaf method, and here’s how it goes…
Rice, which reportedly comes in as many as 40,000 varieties worldwide, is grouped into three categories in the United States: long, medium and short grain. Each category has different cooking characteristics; When cooked the long grains separate and the rice is light and fluffy, while cooked medium and short grain rice is moister and the kernels cling together. Some types of rice, like the Italian arborio used for risotto, are waxy and glutinous. Basmati rice, mainly grown in India and Pakistan, is both long grain and fragrant. It has been aged to enhance its nutty aroma and further reduce moisture content. To make plain rice pilaf for four people:
- Measure 2 cups of basmati long grain white rice into a fine-mesh strainer and place it into a bowl of cold water to soak for 30 minutes. Remove the sieve from the water and drain the rice for 20 minutes. (Soaking and drying the rice thoroughly are important to remove any starch from the kernels before cooking. Otherwise, your rice may be gummy.)
- Heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a 3-quart, heavy saucepan with a close-fitting lid. Saute the rice, stirring, for 2 minutes over medium heat, until the kernels are well coated with oil.
- Stir in 4 cups of water (keep in mind that the usual proportions are one part rice to two parts liquid. The liquid can be water, stock, juice, something exotic like coconut milk, or a combination of the above) and 1 teaspoon salt. Do not stir again until rice is finished. (Seriously. The experts are agreed on this. Bad things will happen if you stir the rice again.)
- Bring the pot to a boil and continue boiling over moderately high heat for 8 minutes, until surface of the rice is dry and covered with steam holes. Reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting, cover the pot tightly (use both a tea towel and the lid – the towel absorbs moisture,increasing your chances of making fluffy rice) and cook 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the rice stand, still covered, 5 minutes more. Remove the cover and fluff the rice with a fork.
Many variations are possible with this method. The recipes that follow will give you a small idea of the range of possibilities.