We have been eating our share of rice around here lately.
For years — literally, years — my wonderful sister-in-law has been quietly suggesting to me, “You really should buy the rice cooker we have.” A sleek, sly model, which makes almost no sound, their rice cooker turned out fragrant, steamed rice every time. Having enjoyed a perfect mound of white rice in my brother’s home almost every visit, I put the rice cooker on my wish list at Amazon. Someday.
But I never did buy it. You see, I had bought a much less expensive, far less fashionable rice cooker, in a fit of needing to save money. It worked. Sure, the bowl quivered a bit, as the rice bubbled and toiled. And the bottom coil looked more like a rust collection over the months than something that cooked food. Still, I owned it. And then we owned it, when the Chef moved in. We made do.
Then, one night, the damn thing exploded. The Chef plugged it in, and sparks came out of the cord. I shrieked, he leaped, and it jumped away from the wall. We stood there together, panting in fear, waiting for it to come to life and attack us. It sat there, inert. We put it in the recycling bin, eventually.
And then we meant to buy another rice cooker. But the last six months of our life have been a little busy. We waited. We made do with a small copper pot with a lid. After all, what did people do before rice cookers? Surely we didn’t need something that newfangled, right?
Then, I started craving rice. For three weeks, all I wanted was a heaping bowl of steamed white rice, with homemade butter, and Maldon salt. It calmed me. I suppose it was bland enough to help with the nausea. It tasted so good. And I dreamed of a machine that could simply make rice for me, something to keep mounds of rice warm and ready for my edible adventures.
So I went online and bought the Sanyo ECJ-F50S Micro-Computerized 5-Cup Rice Cooker and Steamer My sister-in-law was happy when she walked in the door a couple of weeks ago and saw this sitting on the kitchen counter. I am so happy when I see it gleaming near the sink.
Whenever someone says to me, “Oh, I’m so sorry you can’t eat wheat,” I just think, “No problem. I have rice.” I swear, as I write this, I am scooping up the last of a fresh-made artichoke risotto, with roasted lamb and briny black olives. Yeah, I’m deprived.
Give me basmati rice, which is grown in India, at the base of the Himalayas. Inherently, it has a slightly nutty taste. Even though it is a white rice, it has a hint of brown-rice taste. Jasmine rice, which originates in Thailand, is generally less expensive than basmati rice. It also smells woodsy, a little nutty, and something — I swear — a little like Playdough. You know that you are eating food closer to the ground than boil-in-a-bag when you eat jasmine rice. Each long-grain rice has its own taste, so I vary the type I use depending on what I am cooking. Curries? Basmati rice. Seared meats with sauces? Jasmine.
And honestly, I’d be happy at breakfast every morning with a steaming bowl of mochi rice — sticky and saturated with starches — sprinkled with gomasio and topped with quivering poached eggs. Heaven.
Still, all that white rice lacks a certain nutrition. So lately, I’ve been playing with wild rice.
The Chef cooks with it all the time at the restaurant. A few months ago, he was making a roasted quail with wild mushrooms and port sauce. A couple of months later, it was roasted chicken with Seville oranges, wild rice, and bacon. And a few nights ago, he spontaneously created a wild rice with fresh thyme, caramelized onions, and bacon for us. (Again, yes, I am deprived, because I cannot eat gluten.)
As you may know, “wild rice” is a strange moniker, considering that this ingredient is actually an aquatic grass. But the name has stuck, so let’s run with it. Its slightly nutty taste and pleasingly springy texture makes it the perfect fodder for any number of other foods.
Heidi just put up a spring wild rice salad recipe on her site, and the photograph alone makes me dizzy to try it.
But I will admit this — I don’t know that many variations on cooked wild rice. I’d love to vary my options, since I’m clearly going to be eating plenty of it now.
Do you have any favorite suggestions?