Cooking rice–The pot or not?

Today I decided to break into my Lefever Holbrook pork chops. (Remember Conor and his hog operation? I introduced you to him back in January. I just recently got some of his luscious pork!) I pulled out the smallest one, but still a mighty chop indeed!–I’ll eat just half of it tonight. I pan-broiled it, then dressed it with a pineapple salsa: chopped pineapple, lime juice, cilantro, minced ginger and garlic, and a little sambal hot sauce for tingle.

It’s cold out there tonight! I added some roasted squash and put the whole thing on a bed of rice, with a small green salad.

Digression #1: I decided to try a trick that I just learned last Friday at the UW Club’s wine dinner. Instead of making a salad dressing, I just tossed the leaves in plain olive oil. (Well, not so plain!–A beautiful Portuguese oil made on the same estate as the wine that was featured at dinner: Herdade do Esporao.)

Then, on the plate, I put some of the pineapple salsa on the lettuce as well, and the fruit’s acid with the oil became the dressing!–Very nice.

Digression #2:  About that UW Club wine dinner!–I videotaped it and (as soon as I figure out some technical details) will post a micro-movie about it. There’s a great “kitchen adversity” story there too–stay tuned!

Now back to that rice. Before, I always made rice in a saucepan, and it either turned soupy or went off the crunchy deep end. Then about ten years ago I bought an electric rice cooker for maybe thirty-five bucks. Best investment I ever made! I almost always get lovely fluffy rice.
But now a minor controversy has broken out in my beginner-foodie circle: are rice cookers strictly for beginners? I don’t believe it, so I went right to the source: my friend Mani, who grew up in Vietnam. Here’s his take: “rice cookers are very very easy!! the new ones can also do steaming of vegetables, soups, etc. the asians have used electric rice cookers since the late 1960s even in places like vietnam, cambodia, etc. There are many chinese / vietnamese markets selling them at excellent prices here.” [NB: Mani doesn’t capitalize. waste of effort, in his view.]

However, on reflection, that doesn’t exactly put the argument to rest. Is “easy” an option exercised only by beginners? Or do accomplished cooks in Asian cuisine (like Mani!) also go for convenience and predictability? What do you do??

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