Cooking rice has for a long time a point of shame for me. It is one skill that I never managed to cultivate, no matter how hard I tried or how many tips I followed. I always ended up with a different malady of badly cooked rice – dry, burnt, soupy, soft outside crunchy inside – which only made those I consulted more confused as usually the rice cooker novice is making the same mistake repeatedly. Not me! I’m quite diverse in my failures in rice cookery.
I made it a goal of mine to learn how to cook rice. I consulted food blogs, Chris Kimball (not personally, but that would be cool), and the ultimate source of knowledge: a Facebook post. The Facebook post mostly ended up making me feel worse, as the usual refrain was, duh, just use X ratio of water to Y ratio of rice and leave it alone. The repeated “I’ve never had problems once I did this –insert rice skill here—“ only made me feel more inadequate because I had tried all the methods, and still failed.
Something I don’t like to admit about myself, mostly because it’s a bit cocky to say, is that usually I am good at the things I want to be good at. I’m no wunderkind, but through skill or perhaps just good luck, things usually happen when I want them to happen. There are indeed plenty of things I am bad at. For example estimating the number of people in a room or remembering how old I am. But I don’t really care about these things and have never tried to get better at them.
So when rice and I were constantly bickering, instead of just being okay with being bad at making it I instead turned against its universally accepted usefulness. “Who needs rice!?” I thought, trying to ignore the cries of China and protests of India. I took my last pot of ruined rice – in this case simultaneously too soft and too crunchy – and turned it into a pretty delicious brown sugar rice pudding. I sat enjoying a small victory and vowed to never make rice again. Similar to my experiments with driving a manual car or becoming a runner, I’m not familiar enough with the shame of sucking at something to persevere. That’s the honest truth.
The more astute among you are probably wondering why I didn’t just buy a rice cooker. I thought rice cookers to be like avocado slicers or asparagus peelers: one task kitchen tools doing a job you should be able to handle yourself. I eschewed the rice cooker as a big piece of equipment in my simple kitchen that would clutter my countertop and cabinets and bring shame to my skills as a home cook.
That is, until I finally broke down asked for one for my birthday.
Jason purchased me a rice cooker, and it has quickly become a close friend in the kitchen. Yes, it is big and takes up a lot of storage space. But the results are so consistently perfect, almost effortless in their production, that it is worth finding the space to store. It is truly a set it and forget it situation. I’ve also found it is not a one hit wonder. I’ve used mine to steam veggies and dumplings to great success.
Now that the emotional turmoil has been removed, I can fully embrace the perfect utility of rice. How it turns any shred of fridge scraps into a meal, and fills you up in the most satisfying of ways. I love cooking up a big pot on Sunday, and using it to boost up a simple chickpea curry for weekday lunches or to use for dinner in a cast iron skillet of sticky crunchy fried rice.
Sometimes our successes don’t need to look the way we originally imagined them. I’d still love to be the person with a perfect simmering pot of rice on the stove, but I’ve got to move on from this fantasy and embrace my rice cooker and the joy it has brought me. Likewise if anyone knows the electric rice cooker cheat equivalent of driving a manual car or running, let me know.
Okay that’s probably just an automatic car in both circumstances, but you get what I’m saying.
Quick Curried Lamb Rice
This is one of many possible recipes for leftover rice. It’s not sophisticated or complicated, but makes for an easy weeknight dinner. This takes your leftover rice from its original inception, to dinner, and then to breakfast the next morning.
Ground lamb, 16 – 18 ounces
Curry powder, 1 tablespoon
2 bell peppers (red, yellow or orange), roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
Fresh ginger, 1 – 2 teaspoons minced
1 – 2 cups leftover rice
2 scallions, chopped
Brown the lamb in a medium pan. Salt and pepper lightly. Half way through cooking, add half of the curry powder. Remove lamb from pan and set aside on a paper towel to drain. Pour out all but a coating of the lamb fat.
Add peppers and sauté until tender but still crisp, about 5 – 7 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, 1 -2 minutes.
Meanwhile, lightly steam the rice. Add 1 tablespoon of water to a microwavable dish containing rice. Microwave with lid loosely on for 2 minutes.
Add rice and lamb to the pan. Add the rest of the curry powder and mix until well combined. Salt and pepper to taste. Top with scallions.
Enjoy for a quick dinner and then add a fried egg and sriracha the next morning for breakfast leftovers.