~ Fluffy Lemon & Pepper Rice for Fish &/or Seafood~
The perfect, carefully-chosen side-dish really can turn an ordinary meal into an extraordinary one. Recipes for side-dishes aren't usually the most exciting thing to write home about, but, as a food blogger, I can attest to the fact that home cooks routinely conduct searches that clearly inquire: "What to serve with (meat, poultry, fish, seafood, etc.)?" That said, it's not uncommon to have narrower searches include the word(s) "vegetable" or "starch", and/or, "quick" or "easy" -- it seems that people don't like to spend a lot of time hovering over complicated side-dishes.
I'm not making this up. I check my blog for what people are searching for on a daily basis (and they're often the inspiration for a post). Here is one that appeared yesterday: "rice dish to serve with shrimp". Fall, Spring, Summer and Winter, rice-based side-dishes are popular with a lot of folks. Rice is nice for several reasons: It's economical, is usually a staple in the savvy cook's pantry, and, most importantly, it welcomes all sorts of herbs, spices and colorful vegetables with open arms. The bold, bright, zesty flavor combination of fresh lemon and freshly ground black pepper pair seriously well with all sorts of baked, broiled, steamed, grilled or poached fish and seafood, and, this easy recipe has been keeping my family and friends happy for a lot of years!
6 cups water, minus 6 tablespoons water
4 ounces (1 stick) salted butter, total butter throughout recipe
1 lemon, juice and zest
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
red pepper flakes, for garnish
~ Step 1. Unless otherwise specified, always rinse your rice before cooking it. Do not soak it, quickly rinse it, and keep the rice moving while you do. I simply place it in a small-holed colander and with cold tap water running through it, move the rice around with my fingertips until the water running out is clear. After that I let it sit in the sink while I bring the water to a boil on the stovetop.
~ Step 2. In a 4-quart stockpot, bring the water and 6 tablespoons of the butter to a boil over high heat. Gradually, but in a constant stream, add the rice to the boiling water. Adjust the heat to a gentle, steady simmer, stirring constantly. Cover the pot and continue to cook, until the rice is fully-cooked and has absorbed all of the liquid, 12-16 minutes. Do not uncover or stir.
~ Step 3. While rice is simmering, use a microplane grater to zest the lemon. Cut the lemon in half and strain the juice through a fine mesh strainer into a small bowl.
Add and thoroughly stir all of the lemon juice, zest, the black pepper, sea salt and the 2 remaining tablespoons of butter into the rice.
Cover the pot and set aside again for about 5-10 minutes, and, for as long as 15-20 minutes.
~ Step 5. Just prior to serving, "fluff" the rice with a fork. The term "fluff" means to use the prongs of a fork to carefully separate the cooked grains. I like to describe it as a "gentle raking motion" that breaks up any lumps without mashing the rice. It also releases steam and imparts volume to the rice/finished rice dish.
Note: The grains of rice will be plumped up, cooked al dente and slightly clinging to each other. Transfer rice to a serving bowl and garnish with additional lemon zest and red pepper flakes. The same "fluffing" process is also used when preparing couscous, quinoa or bulgur.
~ Step 6 (Optional). After the rice is cooked and fluffed, the option to fold 2-3 cups of steamed baby peas, green beans, small broccoli florets, asparagus tips, diced carrots etc., into the rice is yours.
Veggies add a lot of color and flavor to the rice, eliminate the need to make two side-dishes, and complement almost any broiled, baked or grilled fish, seafood (or poultry) you're serving.
This is the side-dish to enjoy your "catch of the day" with!
Specialty Equipment List: small-holed colander or mesh strainer; 4-quart saucepan or stockpot w/tight-fitting lid; spoon; microplane grater; small mesh strainer; fork
Cook's Note: One of my favorite ways to serve this rice, especially in the Winter, is stirred into my ~ Provencal Seafood Stew w/Lemon-Rice ~. Get the recipe, along with all of my step-by-step instructions and photos by clicking into Categories 2, 11, 14 or 21!
"We are all in the food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2015)