Friday, February 7, 2014

A Receipt for Rice, Dominican Style

Sure, I have not eaten rice in ages, but that does not mean I don't cook it. Indeed I do! For one, there are the facts that my dad hails from the Dominican Republic, Musmie grew up in South America, and my brother is...well, my brother. That equals Rice in just about anyone's books. But then there is my take on the matter; viz., that fruity fragrance of fluffy whiteness simmering away in an old pot with its bent lid, the sounds of the crackling, then the drip drip of the condensed steam pattering atop the grains, the pale little heap of snow-like yumminess crying out for a sauce to cover and protect it. Rice. So sweet.

I suppose years without rice allows one to romanticise a bit, right? Okay, so maybe I like that it cooks up in 20 minutes and you can slap it against basically any thing and call it a complementary side. Romanticism has its practical moments, too.

Still, there is the question of how to cook it. I remember the first time I saw an American family prepare rice. 'Twas shocking. Sand-coloured kernels poured into a bigblackthing (I later discovered this was a "rice cooker" [which always reminds me of "pressure cookers" {which is not a good thing because don't we have enough pressure already?}]) with a lid screwed or heaved or pressed on a metal tub as tight as possible, like something out of B.F. Skinner. Up flipped a switch, on came a bright light, and that was it. No crackles, no pitter-patter, and no innocent whiteness. 'Twas sad.

Don't get me wrong. Since then, I have come to love the earthy, nutty brown texture and flavour of brown rice. But this post shall not be weighing the nutritional or gastronomical pros and cons of brown and white rice. This is simply, and unabashedly, a recipe for white rice, the way I was grown-up to love it.

(In case you were wondering, I have yet to reconcile with the rice cooker. But that's okay, weaker brothers, Christian liberty, and all that jazz. ;))

~ 2-4 Tablespoons cooking fat. Use a good olive oil or lard for this one, the only exception being if you are planning on serving this with an Asian dish, in which coconut oil is allowed. Otherwise, olive oil or lard is your best bet. (I save butter and bacon fat for brown rice ~ oh, so good!)
~ 2 cups white rice, whether Basmati or Jasmine, or Long-Grain. Dad likes Basmati, Musmie likes Jasmine, and my brother likes Long-Grain. Yeah, it's an interesting life. 
~ 3 cups water
~ 2-3 teaspoons unrefined sea salt (the Real stuff, ya know). 

A grain, an oil, a salt, and some water. You have to appreciate the simplicity of thing. 

The first step is to maneuver and wriggle out a medium-sized, wide-and-heavy-bottomed pot with matching lid. Peaceful music might be required, unless you are one of those sane people who keep their most-used pots and pans at the front of their cupboards. *cough*

Then place the pot/pan/thing on a working burner and turn the heat to medium-highish. Spoon in your oil or lard and, while it is heating up, measure out your two cups of rice. Take care not to let your fat burn (smoke). Dash in thy rice and stir the little dearies so that they are well coated in the oil or lard. 

See? Dashed and stirred and well-coated wee little white things.
While the rice is having a jolly time sautéing in the pot, measure three cups of water and have it near to hand, poised and ready for just the right moment. That moment will come when the rice grains have transferred from translucent to solid white, and an unmistakably tantalizing smell crescendos in the kitchen. That is when your water must strike.
Solid white. Add the water. Now.
Dousssssssssse! That simmering sound have I always rather relished. Anyway, throw in the salt and give the rice a last quick stir and cover the pot with its lid.
Now, about the lid. My lid, as I have aforementioned, is bent so that there are little spaces between pot and lid where air can escape. This is intentional, and if your lid does not twist and turn as does mine, then you need to leave your pot open a crack. Just knock the lid off-center as if you were upset with your CDO sister. There. Now your rice will have the perfect texture.
Waiting to be bonneted.
The next thing to do is to get going on whatever else it is you are making for supper. Wash the lettuce, check the meat, taste the soup, just don't leave the kitchen and don't stare at the pot. In a few short minutes, you will sense (see steam and hear bubbles) that the rice water has come to a boil. Without opening the lid, turn the heat down to plain old medium. Get back to preparing thine other vittles. Keep your ears sharp.

In ten to fifteen minutes, you will start hearing a drip-snazzz, drip-snazzzz, drip-snazzzzz. I know, best part of the whole evening. The engaging sound you are hearing is the steam of the water hitting the lid and condensing into drops right before it snazzles back onto the hot pan. Now, remove the lid and what should meet your eyes is this:
Air pockets!
There should be little sink holes in your rice. I have no clue why this happens. It just does. If your ear has not yet been accustomed to picking up on the drip-snazzz sequence, simply sequester the pot lid after ten minutes of lowering the heat to medium, and check to see if "soupy rice" has become "air pocket" rice. If you are still in the "soupy rice" stage, just recover the pot and wait another few minutes. (No, it won't kill the rice or the flavour or the texture to uncover the pot before time. It will survive.) Once the rice has reached sink-hole mania, however....
The Well
...It is time to make The Well. Uncover your pot and leave it uncovered for the remainder of this program. Take your cooking spoon (spatula, stick) and push most of the rice to the sides of the pot, leaving a well in the centre with a thin layer of rice at the bottom. This is how one creates that Dominican dainty, con con. Don't ask me about the etymology on that one. Jenn has no idea, and I don't think any Dominican has the faintest, either. Nevertheless, con con is an epicurean delight, and it is the crunchy bit of browned rice located at the bottom of any good Dominican cook's rice pan. One spoons out the regular rice into a serving dish, and then scrape, scrape, scrapes out the con con to serve it on the side. Oh, my, so good. Which is why I am teaching you how to make it.

So, The Well. You made The Well and now you are going to put the heat back onto medium-high and wait for the 3-5 minutes it takes for the skin of rice to become golden and crunchable. Watch the transformation.
See the honey-hued rice at the bottom?
Can you see it now?
And that's con con. Shift all the rice back into its proper place (as in, mess up The Well), and serve the rice and con con with your meal.
An especially edible pot of white fluffiness.
This rice with a vegetable, a meat, and a sauce combine for a scrumptious meal. Enjoy!

Photos again, obviously, by Yours Truly. I really need to do my camera better justice. Ahem.

1 comment:

  1. And for anyone who has not tried Jenn's rice, it's AMAZING. I always expect just the plain white taste, and I'm always happily surprised - again. :)
    Thanks for the recipe, Jenn!


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