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Hearty Grains

June 14, 2009

I am the first to admit that brown rice just sounds nasty.  And that makes sense given most people’s experience with it.  Earlier this month when I talked about Cuban black beans I mentioned that they were full-flavored enough to be served with brown rice.

Tonia called it “yucky.”

But I am going to tell my story and make my case.  You should try the technique once.  If you don’t like it, fine.  And if you do, well, I told you so.

The first time I remember eating brown rice, I was in Iceland visiting my aunt Nora, who I considered to be bohemian.  I mean, she was a musician, and she fell in love, and moved to Iceland to be with her clarinetist boyfriend.  Maybe she was just artsy and free spirited.

When I visited her as a child, one of the staples of her diet was brown rice with cheese sauce.  She was the first to teach me how to make a basic white sauce.  And all you had to do was add cheese?  Brilliant.

Still that tasty tasty cheese sauce was the only thing that made the brown rice edible.

Jump forward 20 years and I had still never really had good brown rice.  But I was a devoted Cooks Illustrated reader, and they published a very fussy technique for making brown rice that was not nasty and mushy.  And it involved baking it in the oven.

The technique is still on their site and if you are a paid member, as I encourage you to be, you can give it a shot.  But like all Cook’s Illustrated recipes there were a lot of additional steps.  Like when you take it out of the oven, you are instructed to fluff it with a fork, then cover with a clean dishtowel for five minutes, then uncover for five minutes, then serve immediately.

Well, once I decided to see if the dish were materially different without all the last minute tinkering.  And honestly, I couldn’t tell the difference.

And then I happened to stumble upon a similar and less precious recipe from Alton Brown that was perfectly serviceable.  It became my go-to brown rice technique for a while.

Then one day I was perusing one of my other favorite food magazines at the time, Saveur.  They committed an entire feature to brown rice.  And within it contained the most ridiculous way to cook brown rice I had ever heard, but they made some pretty fantastic claims about the results.  So I decided to give it a shot.

I boiled brown rice in a gigantic pot of unsalted water.  It was just like cooking pasta, but without the salt.  The rice gets rinsed first, then boiled for 30 minutes, then strained, and steams back in the pot – off heat for 10 minutes.  Done.

It’s faster than the oven method.  It’s easier.  It is infinitely more foolproof than any method I have ever encountered for cooking any kind of rice ever.  And it’s delicious.  Plus it works just as well with brown basmati and brown jasmine rice.  Both varieties are readily available at Trader Joe’s but much more difficult to find around Albany.

And so maybe it’s a bit better for you than white rice.  Maybe some of the nutrients get cooked out in the water.  I don’t know.  What I do know is that the fiber still stays intact, which makes this a delicious complex carbohydrate.  We eat it at least once a week.

Perhaps you will not like the full and nutty taste of perfectly cooked brown rice.  But let me assure you, yucky it is not.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Jennifer permalink
    June 14, 2009 8:36 pm

    That’s an interesting method. I usually do that for rice pudding but I’ve never boiled my regular brown rice. For our every day brown rice I do 2 cups brown rice to 4 cups boxed chicken stock (Swanson Natural Goodness- CI’s pick) cook as you would any rice. I turn the rice off as soon as the water is absorbed but it’s still sort of wet and let it sit with the lid on for 5-10 minutes. It’s very tasty that way.

  2. Erin permalink
    June 15, 2009 9:30 am

    They have brown basmati in the bulk bins at Honest Weight.

  3. June 15, 2009 7:53 pm

    I had no idea there was so much brown rice hatin’ out there. I LOVE the stuff. I eat it at least a few times a week, be it the regular stuff or the brown basmati from the co-op’s bulk section. I sometimes even use my rice cooker and have no problem with it seeming mushy. Maybe I’m just a weirdo.

  4. Tonia permalink
    June 16, 2009 11:14 am

    I didn’t even read the whole article yet and I am cracking up over here. LOL.

    • Tonia permalink
      June 16, 2009 11:18 am

      Okay, okay! I will try your method. But, it is not the brown rice I have the problem with. I like it. I just don’t prefer it with my rice and beans. LOL. Thanks for sharing! :-)

      • Tonia permalink
        June 16, 2009 11:20 am

        P.S. I have never had mushy brown rice either. How does that happen? LOL.

  5. Kate permalink
    June 17, 2009 6:54 pm

    I vote for baking when I’ve got something else in the oven–the efficiency makes me feel even more virtuous than making brown rice. But boiling brown rice like pasta is the only foolproof way. (Any cooking method where you can taste for doneness as you go simply makes sense.)

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