All By Myself (with Rice)!

Since I was a kid, rice has always been a staple at the dinner table. I've seen more fights at the dinner table over who's getting the last of the rice than they have on most reality TV shows. We eat it with everything. Having eggs and bacon? Better get some rice. You made chili and cornbread? Where's the rice? 

All this got me thinking. I've never had rice all by itself. It's always been mixed with something, on the side with something, or seasoned with something. I've spent my entire life eating something that I have no idea where it comes from or what it tastes like all by itself. Since this year is all about truly exploring the food that I eat on a regular basis, I decided to figure out what the hell difference it makes what rice I eat.

Before I get into the nitty gritty, I want all of you to know that each rice was cooked on the stove in plain water with absolutely no salt or added flavors. (This was unfortunate in some cases as they really needed it. Be brave, dear reader!) Each rice was tried on it's own as well as with a pork chop rubbed in Brown Sugar Bourbon rub and fried. 

Arborio Rice
This Italian short-grained rice made it's claim to fame because of it's starring role in Risotto. It's a dish that seems to grace every sit down restaurant menu whether it belongs there or not, but that's a rant for another time. Arborio rice is perfect for risotto because of it's creamy mouth feel and firm, chewy texture. And trust me, it really needs all the attention and flavor that it gets. 

A few things about cooking Arborio rice:

  1. Don't rinse it before cooking. All those starches are what gives it the creamy feel.
  2. Liquids wise, use a 1.5 to 1 ratio.
  3. Cook it slow and low, so it breaks down to that creamy consistency.
Tasting Notes
It feels very creamy on the tongue, which really makes it surprising when you bite down and it's chewy. In fact, it's almost crunchy for a rice. On the downside, this stuff is blander than tofu. No wonder they use it in Risotto. It needs all the butter, cheese, chicken broth, salt, garlic and company it can freaking get. I was so disappointed by how bland this stuff was. There is no tasty fish here. Only poison that needs a flavor antidote. (Good thing I had that pork chop!)

Basmati Rice
Let me preface this by saying, I love Basmati rice! Indian food. Mediterranean food. Persian food. Every time I've had it it's been a good time. Downside is all of these cuisines have very distinct flavor profiles, so I have no idea whether the complement the rice or the rice complements them. 

A few things about cooking Basmati rice:
  1. Give it a good rinse, then soak it for about 20 to 30 minutes before cooking it.
  2. Like Arborio rice, use a 1.5 to 1 ratio for your liquid.
  3. Cook it low for about 20-30 minutes and let the lid sit on for at least another 5 after you take it off the heat.
Tasting Notes
First impression is this stuff smells amazing. Just fluffing it with a fork made my mouth start watering. Most of the time restaurants tend to toss herbs into the rice, but the smell coming out of the pot tells me that it doesn't need it. Also, I could tell that it's light and fluffy without even putting a bite into my mouth. The flavor was lightly nutty, and the texture was great. I can really see what all the fuss is about!

Black Rice (or Forbidden)
Who doesn't want something that's forbidden? (See Eve.) This stuff is so forbidden that it's black just so you get the point. Just kidding. Turns out black rice was so rare that was considered superior to all other rices and only Chinese royalty was allowed to eat it. (More likely, it was just the "in" thing at the time.) It seems that the emperor had the right idea as black rice has been linked to a number of positive health effects. (See NPR.) I've never eaten this until now, so let's take a ride.

A few things about cooking black rice:
  1. Rinse this stuff really well.
  2. Same as before, use a 1.5 to 1 ratio for your liquid.
  3. Cook it low and slow for about 25-45 minutes.
  4. Don't panic when it cooks up purple.
Tasting Notes
There is an aroma here that I can't quite put my finger on. It's almost reminiscent to black licorice. It certainly made the tip of my tongue numb a little like black licorice does. (Note: this could just be me, so don't shy away because of this.) There is a sweet flavor and chewy texture. I can safely say this is one that I could eat all by itself or with maybe some sweetened meats.

Jasmine Rice
I've been eating this rice with everything religiously for at least the last three years of my life. The smell of Jasmine rice cooking makes me happy. 

A few things about cooking Jasmine rice:
  1. Rinse it well before cooking.
  2. Your looking at a 2 to 1 ratio for your liquids.
  3. It cooks up pretty fast on the stove, usually in 20-30 minutes.
  4. Fluff it with a fork after you take it off the heat. Cover it back up and let it sit for at least 5 minutes.

Red Wehani
Alright, fashionistas! Get out your designer shades and Armani handbags! Your rice is here. Red Wehani is a designer brown rice developed from Basmati seeds. (It's also trademarked.) It looks like wild rice and smells like roasting peanuts minus all the sugar. It's also new to me.

A few things about cooking Red Wehani:
  1. Rinse it well and let it soak for about 30 minutes before cooking.
  2. Use a 2 (or 2.5) to 1 ratio for your liquids. 
  3. Low and slow. I mean really low and really slow. We're talking 60-70 minutes of cooking. Unless you like grainy, crunchy rice, in which case, torch that sucker.
Tasting Notes
There is a weird, grassy flavor. (It made me think of that time I ate it playing soccer and came up with a mouthful of lawn clippings.) I didn't get any nuttiness, which is disappointing because it smelled like roasting nuts. It was also pretty grainy, even after cooking for almost an hour and a half. This stuff hates pork. I think it needs to be stuffed inside something and cooked that way. (Who thought this was a good idea? Have they even tasted this?)

Wild Rice

This is it! The most over-hyped rice ever to grace planet Earth. It's not even actually from the rice family. It's like a third cousin twice removed and disowned just to be sure. There are those that would argue that it's better than rice because it has a higher protein content and no gluten. Maybe so, but I'd argue it's only rice in the philosophical sense. Still, we call it rice, so I gave it a whirl. 

A lot of things about cooking wild rice:

  1. Rinse it really, really well before you cook it. (Think laundry on the white cycle.)
  2. Soak it for 30 minutes before you cook it.
  3. Use a 2.5 to 1 ratio for liquid. (This stuff is super dry.)
  4. Low and slow. You're looking at 30-60 minutes depending on how much you're making.
  5. The grains will split as they cook. Don't panic!
  6. Consider using butter to coat the grains prior to boiling.
Tasting Notes
I can't believe I cooked this for an hour and it's still crunchy when I bite down. I thought it was supposed to be "chewy." I'm not getting nuttiness. I'm getting grassy but not nutty. (Although after eating all of this rice, I may be going nuts.)


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