You have by now likely found yourself the owner of great quantities of rice. If it’s a substantial but ungreedy amount, congratulations! Rice is wonderful, one of the most versatile ingredients—in the same realm as eggs. And it goes wonderfully with eggs. (PSA: If you found yourself in a blind hoarding frenzy, spurred by other peoples’ blind hoarding frenzies, and now regret the amount of rice you bought, consider a food bank.)
One of the greatest things about rice is you can pour nearly any saucy thing over it, from nearly anywhere in the world, and have a meal. Eggs and soy-glazed mushrooms? All forms of curries? Hungarian goulash? Stewed beans? Hell yes. It jibes with all cuisines. But it can also be the main event, especially when you play with the range of textures it offers, from slightly chewy (risotto) to liquefied (congee). Below are three recipes that make it so.
Though it is most associated with Chinese food, congee pops up all through Asia. It is the simplest and most satisfying thing: You boil rice until it’s porridge. This one skews more Japanese—less water and dashi instead of other broths. If you’d rather make it more traditionally Japanese, and truly the simplest of dishes, you can skip the dashi and use water.
- 1 cup, any type of white rice
- 5–7 cups water
- Dashi (1 piece kombu, a few dried shiitake mushrooms, a few handfuls of katsobushi)
- Sea salt, to taste
- Whatever garnishes you like: scallions, sesame seeds or oil, soft eggs, nori or furikake, mushrooms, wakame seaweed, mustard greens, etc.
- Make the dashi. In a saucepan, soak the kombu and mushrooms in 5 or so cups of cold water for at least a half an hour. Gently raise to a simmer, but as soon as bubbles reach the surface, cut the heat. Add the katsobushi and let sit for 10-15 minutes. Strain through the finest strainer you have.
- Add the dashi back to the pot. Add the rice. Slowly cook the rice for an hour or more, stirring occasionally. You can keep adding water if it gets too thick. If it’s not thick enough, keep cooking. When it’s reached a consistency you like (I don’t know your life!), season with sea salt to taste.
- Garnish sparingly or decadently.
There is a great deal of superstition and trepidation around risotto, which is silly. It’s pretty straightforward. No, you don’t have to stir the whole time. Yes, you do need to stir a lot. Yes, you need the right sort of rice (arborio). Yes, you can add whatever you like—asparagus, mushrooms, peas. The technique is the same.
- 1 ½ cups arborio rice
- 5 cups broth, either meat or vegetable
- 4–5 tablespoons butter
- a splash of white wine
- a whole piece of parmigiano-reggiano (not grated or that weirdass powder in a can)
- 1 small shallot
- salt and black pepper, to taste
- With a very sharp knife, mince the shallot as finely as you are able. It should nearly become a paste.
- In one pot or sauce pan, heat the broth. In another, heat about half the butter until it begins to foam.
- Add the shallot and sauté until translucent. Neither butter nor shallot should brown.
- Add the dry rice. Stir until the grains toast slightly, a minute or two. Add a splash of wine and let it cook off.
- Using a ladle, add the hot broth a half cup at a time. Keep the heat at medium low, bubbling but not going crazy, and stir until the liquid has nearly cooked off. Add another ladle of broth. Repeat. You can walk away, check your phone, whatever, but should be stirring every minute or two. If it sticks, you aren’t stirring enough. It should take about 30 minutes to cook. If you run out of broth, switch to water. Around 25 minutes, start tasting a few grains (it should be al dente, like pasta). When it’s cooked, add the rest of the butter and a half-cup of finely grated parmesan. If the risotto is too dry, add a little water. It should be creamy, with the center of each grain a little chewy (not powdery).
- Add anything else you like—herbs, mushrooms, clams. Season with salt and cracked black pepper. Using a vegetable peeler, peel sheets of parmesan as a garnish.
Rice and Spice
I lifted this recipe from MFK Fisher’s How to Cook a Wolf, which feels fitting: It was written for cooks during wartime. Rice and Spice is, by contemporary standards, an odd dessert. But these are odd times.
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups milk
- ¾ cup raisins
- 1 ¼ cups cooked rice
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon each: nutmeg, ginger, salt (or to taste)
- 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
- Separate the eggs.
- Stir two tablespoons of milk into the yolks.
- Pour the rest of the milk in a double boiler, add the raisins and cook for 15 minutes. Add the rice. Cook for five minutes.
- Add the egg yolks, sugar, salt, and spices. Cook for 2–3 minutes, stirring. Pour into an ovenproof dish.
- Beat the egg whites and add the powdered sugar. Spread this meringue over the rice pudding. Brown under the oven broiler. Chill, then eat.