This last week my bestie from college came to visit from Portland, Oregon. She was in town to read her poetry at the Churchill Arts Council thanks to a collaboration with the Churchill Library Association. Mindy and I met when we were newly 18 years old. We lived together, along with three other young women, in an apartment that we dubbed the “Nest of Estrogen.” What fun and dramatic times those were. As I am sure you can imagine, our house was a popular weekend destination to enjoy music, drinks, good company, and often food. Mindy was one of the first people outside of my family that I cooked food with regularly. We delighted in throwing intimate dinner parties that focused as much on the dishes as the invite list and the cultivated conversation.
When I reflect on those days in the mid-nineties, it is easy to see what was happening–we were forging a family of our choosing. Our family had a common language, ritual, and culture. We started with the basics and built a foundation that has lasted over 25 years. That foundation was built brick-by-brick, meal-by-meal, and dish-by-dish, it is what has enabled our friendship to endure.
This has me thinking about the basics. It is important to learn to do the simple things correctly and then to practice doing them correctly enough times that you can take them for granted. This is how you build a solid foundation. The basic dish that caused me a lot of frustration and consternation as a fledgling cook is rice. Back in the Nest days (pre-culinary school and professional chef-dom), I remembered cooking a lot of rice and I remember scrubbing a lot of pots encrusted with stuck-on rice. It wasn’t for many years that I learned a hack that ensures that rice comes out perfectly with total reliability. Now I am going to share that hack with you.
When I first learned how to make rice, here is what I was taught. Measure out your rice into a colander and rinse until the water runs clear, rinsing the rice removes the extra starch and increases your chances of yielding fluffy rice grains. One cup of uncooked rice will yield about 3 cups of cooked rice, which is just about enough for 2-3 people. Combine the rinsed rice and the appropriate amount of water into a pot. There are nuances to what constitutes the “right” amount of water depending on the variety of rice that you are cooking and what resource you consult, but generally, 1 ½ - 2 cups of water is the right amount for 1 cup of rice. Bring the rice to a boil then cover the pot and reduce heat to a simmer. Let your rice cook for 15-18 minutes–whatever you do, DO NOT lift off the lid to check the rice. After at least 15 minutes take a peek then re-cover the rice and turn off the heat. Wait 10 minutes then uncover and fluff with a fork.
I have cooked hundreds of pots of rice using this method, many attempts resulted in rice grains stuck en masse to my pot necessitating an overnight soak and some elbow grease the next day.
Let me save you the trouble. To prepare delicious rice that reliably comes out fluffy with zero stuck grains:
Cooking Rice with Kelli
- Preheat your oven to 300 degrees
- Rinse 1 cup of rice until the water runs clear
- Combine rinsed rice and 1 ¾ c water in an oven-safe pot (this is a great time to add a little salt and a nub of butter if you like).
- Bring to a boil then cover and pop in the oven for 30 minutes.
- Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes then fluff.
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