A student of mine turned me onto a classic (as I learned) way of cooking brown rice a few years ago. This method works particularly well with short-grain brown rice and has converted many a brown rice skeptic in my circles. You bake the rice in the oven after adding boiling water, a bit of butter and salt. Tightly covered it cooks away for an hour. And then watch out! I eat too much of it every time. It’s fluffy and buttery and tender and sweet and really just perfect.
In any case, I make a big panful of this brown rice whenever I make it since it also makes a noteworthy fried rice the next day (or week or month since it freezes beautifully). Having some cooked, frozen rice on hand is a gift on a busy day. Rice thaws fairly quickly and when re-purposed into friend rice or added to soup or gratin or even a cold salad with a zippy dressing, is hardly any worse for wear. In fact for fried rice to be good you want to use rice that was previously cooked and cooled so the grains are sure to separate nicely.
In my kitchen fried rice is another perfect cook-with-what-you-have kind of dish. Whatever bits of vegetables and sometimes meat I have on hand all fry up nicely when cut into small pieces and given plenty of room and heat. Scoot the rice and veggies to the side and scramble a few eggs in the same pan before mixing them in gives it extra heartiness. And any number of fresh herbs tossed in at the end are a bonus. In this case it was basil and mint. Sometimes I add chopped, roasted peanuts and a good splash of coconut milk (unorthodox I’m sure but very good nevertheless).
So cook some rice, lots of rice, and then make fried rice or rice custard or tell me what your favorite thing to do with leftover rice is . . . Happy Cooking!
Cook-With-What-You-Have Fried Rice
This is the quintessential quick dinner, utilizing whatever bits and pieces you have on hand. Asparagus, corn, turnips, radishes, leeks, chard stems, green beans all work well in this dish. Quantities are all approximations and you can vary them as you like. You just want to be sure you cut the vegetables finely and fairly uniformly and you don’t want to crowd your skillet or wok. To avoid a soggy dish you need to be brave with the heat level and steer away from vegetables that give off a lot of liquid like tomatoes or zucchini, though finely diced zucchini would work well with enough heat!
Serves 4 (more or less)
4 cups cooked, cooled rice (I recommend making short-grain brown rice as described above, if you can)
2 tablespoons coconut, sunflower or olive oil
1/2 a small onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced (or one or two stalks of green garlic, minced–using the whole things except for the ratty tops)
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1-2 ounces of bacon, cut into small dice
1 1/2 cups of peas (fresh or frozen) or snap peas, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 small carrots, cut into small dice
1 Serrano chili, seeded (if you don’t want it very spicy) and finely chopped or 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2-3 teaspoons Tamari or soy sauce
2 teaspoons fish sauce (or to taste)
3 tablespoons roughly chopped basil, mint or cilantro (or a combination)
Heat the oil in a wok or wide skillet over high heat. Add the onions, garlic, ginger, carrots, Serrano chili, and bacon and cook stirring very frequently for about 3 minutes until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the peas and the rice and mix everything very well. Cook for about three more minutes to heat the rice and peas through. Then push the contents of the pan to one side and add the eggs to the empty spot and scramble them until almost set. A few stray peas or rice kernels will make their way in which is just fine. You just don’t want to mix the raw egg into the rice right away since you’ll loose track of it as it just coats the kernels instead of scrambling. When the eggs are almost set, mix them gently into the rice, add the soy and fish sauce, stir well and then mix in the herbs. Adjust seasoning–it may need salt or more soy or fish sauce or a squeeze of lime juice–and serve immediately.