Let’s consider the ubiquitous starch that is rice. A basic staple in many ethnic cuisines, the Chinese phrase for “eating dinner” translates literally into “eating rice.”
So, it was with some amusement we clicked on an email from the USA Rice Federation, asking us to work with them on a promotion, one of many bloggers invited.
We actually have a pantry dedicated to rice. We stock long grain and short grain sticky (aka: glutinous) rice. Usually, there is also basmati and American calrose (aka: sushi-type rice). Lately, we have been experimenting with wild, black and mahogany, and red “cargo” rice. We now supplement our white rice with a blend of whole oats, rye berries, hulless barley, black and purple barley, black Japonica rice, carnaroli rice, Beluga lentil, and red rice, upping fiber and lowering the glycemic payload.
The wrinkle? USA Rice wanted us to cook with American brown rice. Jenn and I were skeptical. Most orientals are skeptical about brown rice, long-held misgivings about preparing the hulled but unmilled grains. Owing to its bran and germ layer remaining intact, brown rice is renowned for its “nuttiness.” We have been known to snicker when diners at Chinese restaurants order their Yeung Chow fried rice made with brown instead of white rice. Needless to say, brown rice behaves differently in a gas-fired wok.
As per instructions from USA Rice, here is Toronto’s Rose Reisman, demonstrating how to make a brown rice pilaf.
In her video, Reisman espouses the versatility of cooking with rice, especially brown rice.
The thing is, Jenn’s mom has been trying to get her to eat brown rice for the past 15 years. A pilaf isn’t gonna cut it by itself. We need options…
Application 1: Let’s ratchet up complementary flavours with a smokey roasted vegetable brown rice salad.
What You’ll Need:
- 2 1/2 cups of steamed brown rice (made however you wish, via pot (method in video above), oven, or rice cooker (easiest))
- 1/2 cup chopped smoked turkey (or thick cut bacon)
- 1/2 cup roasted corn (approximately one ear’s worth)
- 4 tbsp roasted but unsalted sunflower seeds
- 1 chopped and sweated red onion
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1/3 cup cold pressed sunflower oil such as comes from Kricklewood Farm (or extra virgin olive oil)
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar (apple cider vinegar for lower acidity)
- maple syrup to sweeten
- salt and pepper to season
- chile flake for heat (optional)
- If using thick cut bacon, cook the bacon. Then, drain and chop the cooked rashers finely. Set the chopped bacon aside.
- If using whole corn, roast the ear on a gas or charcoal grill in the husk. Let the ear cool and cut the kernels from the cob. Set the kernels aside. Alternatively, cut the kernels from the cob and pan fry them until charred.
- Finely chop a red onion (fine brunoise) and sweat it down in 1 tsp of any neutral oil. Remember, sweating means pan-frying at sufficient temperature to soften but not brown. Set the sweated onion aside.
- Finely chop and set aside the parsley.
- Toss together the salad ingredients in a large bowl.
- Whisk together the vinaigrette ingredients into an emulsion and drizzle it into the salad.
- Toss again and serve.
Application 2: Need a complete meal solution? Let’s go Korean.
Thanks to New York City’s David Chang and Los Angeles’ Roy Choi, Korean cuisine is very chic, inspiring diners to explore fermented vegetables and characteristic sauces. One of the seemingly elementary Korean dishes many try for the first time is bibimbap, a rice bowl made somewhat differently, depending on several regional traditions.
Me, because my kitchen is somewhat lacking in stone bowls (dolsots), I just go for colourful: red, yellow, white, black and green.
Forget the rules, bibimbap is great for using up leftovers.
So, steam up some brown rice and top with gochujang-roasted (Korean fermented chili paste) pork belly; gently wilted spinach; stir fried snow peas finished in sesame oil; stir fried carrots finish in sesame oil; butter sauteed shiitake mushrooms; black sesame seed; and a runny yolk fried egg.
Application 3: How about something sweet? We all scream for ice cream?
Ever had brown butter ice cream? Well, in Japan, you can purchase brown rice soft serve, which I surmise would be similar: nutty, but sweet with darker sugars. So, I decided to make a classic creme anglaise-based ice cream, infusing the dairy with toasted brown rice.
[In all honesty, if you are making ice cream at home, the easiest way to ensure a smooth and rich texture is to start with a creme anglaise.]
What You’ll Need:
- 120 g (approximately 1/2 cup) uncooked brown rice
- 1 cup whipping cream (35%)
- 1 cup whole milk
- 4 large egg yolks
- 60 g (approximately 1/2 cup packed) brown sugar
- 1 tsp corn starch
- Pinch (approximately 1/4 tsp) of kosher salt
- 1 1/2 tsp spiced rum (optional)
- Freeze the core of your ice cream maker. If you have an ice cream maker with a built-in condenser, skip this step.
- Mix together the cream and milk and place the dairy into a seal-able container.
- Toast your rice in a dry non-stick skillet (preferably seasoned cast iron) on a burner set to medium heat until the grains darken and you smell “nuts.” You will have to move the grains around to ensure even colouring. If any of the grains turn black, dump the batch and try again with new rice.
- Add the rice to the dairy, stir, seal the container, and place the mixture in the fridge to infuse for at least 2-3 hours.
- In a stand mixer, with the paddle attachment mounted, gently beat together the egg yolks, sugar, corn starch, and salt.
- Strain out and discard the toasted rice, reserving the dairy.
- Add back cream or milk to make up 2 cups of liquid.
- “Scald” it. That is, bring the dairy up to 180F (bubbles, but not boiling) in a pot set to medium heat.
- With the mixer on low, slowly drizzle the dairy into the egg mixture.
- Strain the resulting custard back into the pot.
- Now, bring the custard (called a creme anglaise) up to 175F. The mixture will thicken, coating the back of a spoon (aka: napé). This can be accomplished two-ways, directly over a burner if you have good quality cookware and an even flame. Or, in a metal bowl set over boiling water (a water bath).
- Again, strain the creme anglaise into a seal-able container and place it in the fridge.
- When chilled, add the rum if using and spin according to the instructions of your ice cream maker.
- Either serve immediately as soft serve or harden in the freezer over night.