The sound of steam quickly rising from the rice cooker on the kitchen counter, followed by the “ding” of done, is a vivid, burned-in-my-brain memory of my parents’ house.
When I got married, my father gave us a rice cooker of our own, un Hitachi, as some Cubans call it, using the name of a popular brand for arrocera.
It didn’t last long in our home. My husband and I preferred to cook el arroz in a pot.
It was a bit shocking to my father that we ditched the ricer, for the ricer is easy and wonderful, he said. He always insists there is something wrong with el Mahatma I buy here in Nashville because he can’t seem to get the rice right in a cazuela.
I learned recently — because I asked the Latin tribes I hang with on Facebook — that there is a divide between the Ricer People and the Cazuela People.
The Cazuela people think you’re not a real Latina if you use a Ricer and the Ricer people think the Cazuela People are foolish for not using such a simple tool. (Watch funny this video and you’ll see.)
Or something like that.
The divide is as great as that between the People Who Wash Their Rice and the People Who Do Not Wash Their Rice. (Read this hilarious and enlightening conversation we had over at the Tiki Tiki Facebook).
I am suddenly now and again: a Ricer People…and a Rinser People!
I was given a copy of the newly released 300 Best Rice Cooker Recipes: Also including Legumes and Whole Grains by chef Katie Chin (Robert Rose). So many of the recipes include delicious and healthy grains I love: Farro, quinoa, millet and wheat berries. Plus mucho friojoles!
The dishes range from breakfast tamales to quinoa paella and Brazilian rice with scallops. I have highlighted the Latin ones, but the book contains an international feast of creative and easy one-pot meals, plus steamed cuisines like seafood, dumplings and flan.
Who knew! I thought the only thing that ever came out of a ricer was arroz blanco, and the occasional arroz amarillo. (I confess to rarely eating white rice anymore)
In the last two days, I have made Chin’s Farro Risotto with Fava Beans and Zucchini and Quinoa Risotto with Mushrooms and Thyme. Tasty, easy and all in less than a hour in the brand new $24 ricer I just bought. (Based on the book’s tips, I bought a medium-sized ricer with a brown rice setting and a steam basket.)
Bonnie of Sweet Life made the book’s Cuban-Style Chicken, pictured above. Read below for the recipe.
But first, more on rice.
To Wash or Not to Wash Rice
When we had this talk on our Facebook page, there was a lot of divide over it. It was hilarious, actually. Among my friends, the Washers thought the Non-Washers were Sucias and the Non-washers thought the Washers were a little ridiculous.
I asked chef Chin about it. Her answer:
“It’s important to wash white rice (with the exception of Carnaroli and Arborio) because it eliminates the excess starch. If you don’t wash it, it can come out really mushy. Washed rice comes out fluffy and light and you will really notice a difference.”
And so, my lazy days of non-washing are over.
Dos Dedos Trick y the Mount Fuji Technique
A few Latinas said their moms don’t measure the rice and water, they just make sure there is at least two fingers worth of water above the rice.
Chef Chin wrote that in many Asian households, they do the Mount Fuji: With the tip of your index finger, you touch the rice and add enough water so that it reaches your first knuckle. (This technique is for long-grain white rice, medium-grain and short-grain Asain rices.)
Slow Cooker vs Rice Cooker
As a devotee of the slow cooker, I wondered why I needed yet another appliance. The new lesson: A rice cooker is basically a fast slow cooker, one in which you can prepare a large variety of one-pot meals. Again, not just arroz blanco comes out of el arrocero.
“A rice cooker is much faster than a slow cooker and enables you to saute and then simmer, so you can even make risotto dishes in a rice cooker,” Chin said, adding:
“Rice cookers maintain a higher heat level during the cooking process and therefore require less time and because of the ability to saute in the pan before you simmer, you’re able to achieve a wonderful, browned texture to meats for a stew, for example. In addition, you can steam everything from whole fish to chocolate cake in a rice cooker.”
She clinched me at chocolate cake.
Are you a cazuela cooker or an arrocero devotee?
Did you know you could make so many cool things in a ricer?
Cuban-Style Chicken made in a Rice Cooker
Excerpted from 300 Best Rice Cooker Recipes by Katie Chin © 2011 Robert Rose Inc. www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.
Makes 4 to 5 servings
- The easiest way to grate lime zest is with a rasp grater, such as a Microplane.
- Also called Jamaica pepper, allspice is the dried unripe berry of the pimento plant. It is popular in Caribbean cuisine. If you don’t have allspice, you can use a mixture of equal parts ground cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and black pepper.
- Saffron has a shelf life of about 6 months. It’s customary to wrap it in foil and then store it in an airtight jar or container.
• Large rice cooker; fuzzy logic or on/off
- 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro - 30 mL
- 11⁄2 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme – 7 mL
- 11⁄2 tsp finely grated lime zest – 7 mL
- 1 tsp minced seeded jalapeño pepper – 5 mL
- 1 tsp Hungarian sweet paprika – 5 mL
- 1 tsp salt – 5 mL
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper – 5 mL
- 1⁄2 tsp ground cumin – 2 mL
- 1⁄2 tsp dried oregano – 2 mL
- Pinch ground allspice
- 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice – 30 mL
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil – 30 mL
- 4 to 5 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs 4 to 5 (about 21⁄4 lbs/1.125 kg)
- 1⁄4 tsp crushed saffron threads – 1 mL
- 1⁄4 cup hot water – 60 mL
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 4 oz cooked Spanish chorizo or Cajun andouille – 125 g
- sausage, cut into 1⁄4-inch (0.5 cm) thick slices
- 2 cloves garlic, minced 2
- 1 cup finely chopped onion – 250 mL
- 1⁄2 cup chopped red bell pepper – 125 mL
- 1 tomato, diced
- 1-1⁄2 cups long-grain white rice, rinsed and drained – 375 mL
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp Hungarian sweet paprika – 5 mL
- 21⁄4 cups chicken broth – 550 mL
- 1⁄4 cup drained canned whole pimientos – 60 mL
- cut into thin strips
- 1⁄4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro – 60 mL
- Lime wedges
1. Marinade: In a bowl, whisk together cilantro, thyme, lime zest, jalapeño, paprika, salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, allspice, lime juice and oil.
2. Place chicken in a large sealable plastic bag and add marinade. Seal and turn several times to coat chicken. Refrigerate, turning occasionally, for at least 4 hours or up to 1 day. Using tongs, transfer chicken to a plate, allowing excess marinade to drip back into bag. Reserve marinade.
3. In a measuring cup or small bowl, combine saffron threads and hot water; set aside to steep.
4. Set the rice cooker for the Quick Cook or Regular cycle. When the bottom of the bowl gets hot, add 2 tbsp (30 mL) oil and swirl to coat. Cook chicken, in batches if necessary, for about 3 minutes per side or until browned on both sides, adding oil as needed between batches. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
5. Add chorizo to the rice cooker bowl and sauté for 3 minutes. Add garlic, onion and red pepper; sauté for about 3 minutes or until onion is softened and translucent.
6. Stir in reserved marinade, saffron-infused water, tomato, rice, bay leaf, paprika and broth. Close the lid and reset for the Regular cycle. When the mixture comes to a boil, arrange chicken on top of rice mixture. Sprinkle pimientos on top of chicken. Close the lid and continue cooking.
7. When the machine switches to the Keep Warm cycle, check to make sure juices run clear when chicken is pierced. If necessary, reset for the Regular cycle and check for doneness every 5 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Serve immediately, garnished with cilantro and lime wedges.
Tip: To avoid tearing up when you’re chopping onions, try refrigerating the onions for 30 minutes first, and don’t cut the root off.