A ‘New’ Way to Cook Rice

Cooking easily digestible rice led me to a struggle with my Lagostina pressure cooker, which I described in an earlier post http://115journals.com. I seem to have found a solution in a ‘new’ method, which turns out to be anything but new and apparently Persian.

A friend sent me a copy of a recipe she found in the Los Angeles Times by Russ Parsons – ‘Back to the basics of rice’http://www.latimes.com. Parsons cites a cookbook by Yotan Ottolenghi as his source. Once I began talking about it to other cooks, I discovered they were already using this method and, indeed, I came across recipes for other grains using the same method.

Basically, there are 4 steps. First, the rice is washed and soaked for at least an hour in salted water. Second, it is cooked in a large amount of water like pasta until it is almost done. Third, it is drained and set on the lowest heat with a tightly fitting lid for 35 minutes. (Note that Parsons recommends sprinkling a few tablespoons of water and/or oil over the drained rice, which he mounds, so that it does not get too dry.) Finally, it is removed from the heat, the lid taken off, the pot covered with a tea towel, the lid replaced and allowed to sit for 10 minutes.

I had to experiment three times before I got what I wanted. The first few times were edible but not as delicious as the 4th batch. I soaked my short grain brown rice 24 hours for easier digestion. The hard part was getting it nearly done in the ‘pasta’ step. It took much longer than white rice or even basmati. It is taking about 20 minutes. The low heat or steaming stage also took some experimentation. At first the lowest setting on my stove proved to be too high. Parsons recommends a heat diffuser but kitchen suppliers just stared blankly when I asked for one. I couldn’t even find one on-line. But hail to Lagostina. My heavy bottomed pressure cooker proved to be just the thing – a built in heat diffuser, especially since its lid sealed nicely. Of course, I didn’t choose the pressure setting.

The goal, according to Pasons, is to produce ta-dig, ‘a crisp crust of browned rice that forms on the bottom of the pan’. I have achieved that once or twice.

What I like about this method is that the individual rice grains retain their integrity so-to-speak. My old method of using a measured amount of water in an Ohsawa pot in the pressure cooker produced a mushy rice that I would not have served guests or taken to a potluck dinner. Yet, with the increased soaking time, it proved to be digestible.

Parsons includes a recipe for a pilaf he calls muceddere which is made with basmati rice, lentils, chick peas, and tomatoes. I made a double batch and took it to one potluck lunch and was only briefly taken aback when an Iranian woman about my age -that is a cook of many years – helped herself to it. She didn’t comment but at least the vegetarians enjoyed it. I also tried the recipe using dates and almonds but preferred the muceddere.

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