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Religious Rice

January 16, 2012

First, I know many of you have been very patient about the pending Tour de Egg Sandwich. Some people have today off, so I’m holding the announcement of the Tour until tomorrow. It just means I get to agonize over the details one more day. Planning events can be hell for someone who tends towards the obsessive.

Of course then there is the reason people have today off.

Happy belated birthday MLK! You know, it’s nice to be remembered, but it would be nicer to be actually remembered on the day you were born. I guess that’s what happens to public figures—they stop being people and turn into ideas. The third Monday of every January? That’s just crazy talk.

I hear that Dr. King (the person) liked pecan pie. I like it too, and I actually have a funny story about how a colleague of mine was once sent a box of pecans at work, so I decided to attempt a pie in our office kitchen. Officially, the kitchen was an amazing state of the art affair at my ad agency’s newly built office. But I didn’t quite have all the tools I needed to get the job done. All in all, it came out fine, but took a lot longer than I had expected. The good news was that I didn’t get fired. The bad news is that it was such a long time ago, the details escape me.

So I’ve got nothing thematic today. Well, unless you are really willing to make a stretch.

Hear me out. Dr. King was a reverend. And churches, like synagogues, engage in potlucks all the time. As fate would have it, I have a tale from the potluck. Last Friday night there was one at my synagogue.

I love the events, but I hate the cooking. And it’s not that I hate the cooking, but I just find it to be very stressful. So you can get a sense of it, I’ll share my work-back schedule.

The dinner starts at 6pm in another city. We do not want to be late. Traffic on a Friday evening ranges from light to congested. In the best of conditions it takes 25 minutes, but it can often take the better part of an hour. So to be on the safe side, I pick up Mrs. Fussy from her office at 5pm. That means leaving the house at 4:45pm, and that means getting the kids packed up at 4:30.

So the best-case scenario is that when people sit down at 6pm my food is already ninety minutes old. To minimize this lag, I push as best as I can to time my recipes so they are completed just in time for our departure. There is no room for error.

Last Friday, that bit me in the ass.

I had a strong desire to make a Thai coconut rice curry with chickpeas. I hadn’t made it before, but I had some plain cooked chickpeas ready to go, a bit of leftover green curry paste, and plenty of coconut milk on hand. I cobbled together a few recipes and techniques to form something that met my needs. It called for 4 ½ cups of brown rice, three cans of coconut milk, enough cold water (when added to the coconut milk) to make a total of 12 cups of liquid, ½T of salt, about 1T of green curry paste, and 4 cups of cooked chickpeas.

Simple enough.

Rub oil into a stockpot. Load all the ingredients into the pot, bring it to the just-boiling point, and down to a bare simmer for an hour, until all the liquid is absorbed. What’s amazing is that the timing actually worked. And rice being rice, really holds it heat for a long time. It’s dense stuff.

The downside was that it could have really used some more liquid and additional time on the heat, because much of that brown rice was still crunchy. I was devastated, and wasn’t even sure what to do with the stuff. I had hoped that it would cook a bit more in the bowl on the long drive to temple, but sadly that didn’t happen.

To save a bit of face, I called the rice “al dente” but it was simply way overcooked.

Now, that didn’t stop people from enjoying its flavor. I never asked anyone point blank about its texture. But people kept coming up to me, saying how much they loved the dish. My thought was that they were just being polite. However, the dish did have two things going for it, fat and salt.

I neglected to mention that before I brought the dish to the temple, I tasted for salt, and corrected with an anchovy based Thai fish sauce. That, plus there was an ungodly amount of coconut milk in that dish.

It’s funny, since brown rice is supposed to be so healthful. Perhaps I should have put a warning on the bowl about the saturated fat content of this rice dish. But most people passed it by anyhow. I also failed to merchandise it properly with a cute little card that explained what it was.

So now I’ve got tons of this stuff at home.

Last night I actually heated it back up with a bit more water, just like I would have on Friday had I the time, and it was delightful. Except if I eat what’s left of the bowl, this rice will kill me. On the flip side, I don’t know how I could live with myself after throwing away good food, just because it’s full of saturated fat.

Even Albany Jane and Albany John wouldn’t take it. Next potluck I’m making tzimmes.

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 16, 2012 1:52 pm

    First off, I will take the left overs. It was AWESOME. What folks liked was that it was a vegetarian with protein, gluten free with whole grain dish that had the spice of green curry at an otherwise Ashkenazic table. It was great to taste something different, and it definitively powered the Cantorial Soloist through the service, saturated fat be damned.

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