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Crusty Basmati Rice

Updated: Sep 28, 2020

The Challenge:

2 recipes this week: Salmon with Melting Cherry Tomatoes, and this one, Crusty Basmati Rice, which you can’t find online, but is on page 195 of the Foolproof cookbook.

Mary's Take:

You know how sometimes life gets in the way of the excellent and well-thought-out plans you had for meal-making? [Lea: Always.] That’s what happened to me this week. I don’t think we’ve told you this, but most of you reading this know that we are half Greek, half Lithuanian, and grew up in the Greek Orthodox Church. Our mom is fairly strict about abstaining from meat on Wednesdays and Fridays, and, although I sometimes struggle to follow this, I do try to do it as well. Meaning, Wednesday was the perfect day to make the Salmon and Melting Cherry Tomatoes AND the Crusty Basmati Rice. [Lea: Same!] Fish and rice go great together (genius recipe pairing if I do say so myself)!

Well, Wednesday was also the day we were meeting with our friend/realtor to get the process of selling our rental property going. I haven’t sold too many homes, so I’m not sure how long these meetings take, but I figured I could get some of the meal started and then finished after the meeting.

Confession: I am THE WORST rice maker in the world (I also can’t make pancakes, weirdly). [Lea: She's complaining that she can't make 2 things. Two.] I have never made a pot of rice that is light and fluffy. Mine is always sticky. Always. I’ve tried it on the stove, in the oven, even in the microwave, based on this review of the best way to make rice. You should have seen that disaster! I made a rice puck. I’ve even asked my sister to make it and we know how she cooks. (Sorry, Lea!) [Lea: Yeah, thanks.]

Here’s what our mom did: boiled chicken broth, added the rice, put a paper towel over the pot, and topped it with the lid. Then, 20 minutes later, perfect rice. Or at least it seemed so to me. We would put yogurt on it a lot, so maybe it wasn’t as perfect as I thought.

But, back to Wednesday…this recipe called for simmering the rice for exactly 10 minutes, draining it and layering it in a heavy-bottomed pot with dill and pine nuts and then cooking it (with no additional liquid) for another half hour until the rice is tender and forms a crust. (That’s a couple of weeks of recipes that have included pine nuts. Glad we’re going through them before they turn rancid.) Sounds easy enough, right?

I couldn’t bring myself to make the full recipe of rice. We are just 2 people and we still had rice left over from our family’s Sunday dinner (which my husband expertly made in the oven…and turned out perfect (must honestly just be me) [Lea: And, apparently, me.]); I decided to halve the recipe. I was also happy to use my cute little orange Le Creuset pot.

It needs a name, don’t you think?

I was just going to make the recipe through the boiling of the rice and leave it until after our meeting was over to finish crusting it up, but then, since it was going to take another 30 minutes after that (and how long could this meeting take?), I went ahead and finished the recipe. I, luckily, remembered to turn off the stove after the 30 minutes so I didn’t end up with Burnt Basmati. [Lea; Heh.] As the friend/realtor and John were discussing, I fluffed the rice (it was actually fluffy!), but it wasn’t really crusty yet. (John just reminded me what a “fluffer” is, but I decided to leave it in my story.) Good news, I’d be able to turn on the heat again to warm it back up and give it its little crust while I made the salmon.

Meeting over, time to finish the meal. Turn on the rice’s burner and cook the salmon (the melting tomatoes were done pre-meeting also). Rice is heated through, has a nice crust on the bottom and looks almost identical to the one in the cookbook picture. I tossed in the fleur de sel and pepper and served.

Lea's Take:

I’m just going to go ahead and say it. This challenge is getting expensive. What the hello is fleur de sel anyway?! I typically do my weekly shopping on Mondays. I look through our recipe(s) for the week and put together a list of the things I don’t have (read: most of the things in the recipes). At the very most, I spend 45 minutes at the grocery store, but this week, I was there for an hour and a half. Just looking for stupid shit. It took me a good 20 minutes to find fleur de sel at our local grocery store and then noticed it was $8! For salt (right? It’s a type of salt? Flower salt?)! Did it even make that much of a difference?! And then, I couldn’t find pine nuts. [Mary: You really should just shop my pantry.] I was up and down every aisle, looking, looking, texting my sister who wouldn’t respond. [Mary: Sorry, I was playing with kittens. 8 of them. So precious! Let me know if you want one!] In the end, I gave up. Good times!

It was a busy week for me work-wise. I wanted the rice to go with the salmon; as Mary said, rice and fish go together perfectly. But, I had a deadline, so while I did the fish, Josh did the rice. I know, I know. A complete fail on my part. But we needed rice, so why not use the recipe for the week?

The bad news: while the fish was in the oven, I was at the computer and didn’t see Josh start the rice. And I guess I didn’t tell him there was another recipe this week, so he just made regular rice. And didn’t even use the $8 flower salt! Gaaaah!

The end.

The Results:

The crusty rice pieces were not my favorite. The flavor was good, if a bit buttery (not necessarily a bad thing), and the fleur de sel gave it a seasoned flavor. I just couldn’t get past the crusty rice pieces. They were almost as if they’d returned to their pre-cooked state.

I also think I don’t care for rice that hasn’t been cooked in broth. I find it flat and lacking depth. (That's probably redundant.)

My husband said he’s had crispy rice at Asian restaurants and liked it very much, so, again it was just me and my disastrous affair with this little bugger.

Not even yogurt would have helped me with this one.

Lea: Sure, the rice was flat, lacking depth. I concur wholeheartedly. [Mary: Smartarse.]

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28. sep. 2020

Try cooking rice like it's pasta. You'll need more than the 2:1 liquid to rice ratio. I just eyeball it and add salt. Boil the liquid. Add the rice and boil until your preferred simmer, no cover. I like it al dente. Then drain in a fine colander or sieve. It works for me plus it supposedly reduces the higher-than-wanted levels of arsenic in rice.

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