Have you ever struggled to make fluffy, white rice like they do on TV? Have you tried steaming it in a pot and burned it? There are a few other fancy recipes out there that take forever and produce marginal results, so what’s a poor cook to do?
The obvious answer is to buy an inexpensive rice cooker at the big box store. They really are inexpensive. There are a few out there for less than $20, and the results are uniformly great. No burned rice, no gummy undercooked rice, just rice that is tender and the grains easily separate.
Just because it is called a rice cooker doesn’t mean that rice is the only thing that can be cooked in it, it is, in fact, a steamer, so next time you decide to make rice, consider all the good things you can add, and in just 20 minutes, end up with a one-pot dish. How simple can it get?
Almost any vegetable will do, like onions, shredded carrot, bell pepper, greens, cheese and almost any meat that has been pre-cooked. This really is an opportunity to use your imagination, just look in the fridge and see what leftover you might have, check out the precooked meats at the deli, like a rotisserie chicken, smoked pork chops, even sliced roast beef will do nicely.
The type of rice you use can make a big difference as well. I prefer Delta Blues Rice from Rouses. David Arant is the Delta farmer that grows this amazing rice. He has both brown and white, recently added jasmine and also makes rice grits (rice milled to the consistency of grits). If you can’t get David’s rice, I suggest a good Thai grown jasmine rice from one of the Asian markets.
Another question you might want to consider is the liquid you want to cook the rice in. Water is what most people use, but stock of almost any sort will make the rice much more rich and hearty. Homemade chicken stock is my favorite, store-bought works as well, but vegetable stock, and even a little rice vinegar, olive oil or hot sauce will make a big difference.
One of my all-time favorite rice recipes is garlic rice. I found it in Puerto Rico, when I lived there in the 1990s, and it’s pretty simple. Add butter and crushed garlic to a pan, when the garlic starts to brown and is fragrant, remove the garlic and toast the rice in the garlic butter. Use enough butter to get all of the rice well coated. When the rice starts to take on color, steam it in the usual way. Delicious!
You don’t have to spend a fortune of a steamer – get the cheap one at Wal-Mart. Mine must be 20 years old and it still is going strong!