My daughter laughed when I told her my first recipe in this blog was going to be for white rice..then a long silence. That was 3 years ago, almost to the day, and I still haven't published that post. Today, after three long years and almost 600 recipes I am going to do so.
It took me years to come up with the perfect method for cooking rice seeing that I always cooked it the way my mother does, and although she's a fabulous cook, she's a terrible rice maker. Making good white rice is not as easy as it seems. It is an art and the mark of a good Latin cook. Believe me, I have had my share of bad ones and very seldom have I experienced the real thing. The quality of the rice, the amount of water and the pot used to cook the rice are the most important equations in achieving perfection. And no, a rice maker won't do the trick, it will just make you a good amateur rice maker.
Unlike Chinese or Japanese white rice, boiled white rice as eaten in the Americas, Europe and the Middle East should not be sticky. Asian rice is sticky for a reason...so that you can easily pick it up with chopsticks! The only time I increase the water to twice the amount of rice and cook it covered until done is when I make it to accompany Chinese food. For all others I use the quantities and method a specified below.
To begin with, I never use Uncle Ben's rice. When we first came to this country in the 60's that is all we could find in the grocery stores. Then I moved to Miami in the mid 90's and discovered Mahatma, which is what most Latin cooks have been using for years. Luckily, you can find it in any grocery store nowadays.
Second, I use less water than usual, and third but most important, I cook it uncovered for the first few minutes until the water is almost all absorbed and then cover and continue cooking in low heat until the rice is done. A Colombian cook showed me this method and she used to make the best rice I have ever tasted.
As to the right pot, there is only one. A caldero is a cast iron cooking pot, similar to a Dutch oven, with a tight-fitting lid. It is used to cook rice, braise meat, and simmer stews and soups. It is indispensable not only in the making of rice but for anyone interested in making good Latin food. If you live in Miami, you can find them everywhere including Publix supermarkets. You can also order them online through Amazon here, but do not order the set of 3, they are not made of cast iron aluminum..
|18 centimeter cast aluminum caldero by Imusa|
Calderos are a wonderful and inexpensive alternative to Le Cresuet braisers and if you need to put them in the oven just cover the plastic black button on top of the lid with aluminum foil. It works! The 18 centimeter size is the one I use most often. It is perfect for 1 to 1/2 cups of rice.
Latin cooks will have as many as four Calderos in varying sizes and prefer those made of cast aluminum because it gets seasoned with use. A seasoned Caldero is as personal to a Latin cook as a baseball mitt is to a ball player or a wok to a Chinese cook. Most use their caldero daily.
Oh, and one last thing, do not wash the rice before cooking!
Here are the measurements for 1 cup of rice which serves 3-4 people.
1 1/2 C of water
1 tsp. canola or other neutral oil or butter (i use the latter)
1/2 tsp salt
1 C Mahatma Rice
In a saucepan with a covered lid or caldero bring the water, salt and butter to a boil. Add rice, stir with a fork to ensure rice is level and covered in water and lower temperature to low. Cook uncovered until half the water is absorbed .
Then cover and continue cooking until all the water is absorbed.* DO NOT TOUCH THE RICE. If you see that the rice is not fully cooked when the water is almost all absorbed, add a little more water, cover and continue cooking.
Once rice is done, lift cover, fluff with a FORK and remove from the stove. Let all the steam come out. You can place the cover back after a couple of minutes to keep warm. Rice should be served immediately after it's done.
*Some cooks place a folded paper towel between the rice and the lid in the last minutes of cooking. This helps to absorb extra moisture
Photo #1 Getty
All others Lindaraxa