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~ Culinary Q&A & Kitchen Therapy Too (4/15/11) ~

Culinary Q & A #2The past week has been downright action-packed here in Melanie's Kitchen.  Kitchen Encounters and WHVL-TV shot another cooking segment on Wednesday.  In this segment I prepared my recipe for ~ Provencal Seafood Stew w/Lemon Rice ~.  You can read this recipe in detail in Categories 2, 11, 14 or 21 of this blog, or, to view a short video/slideshow:

Download Provencal Seafood Stew w_Lemon Rice-Medium_3

To watch me on TV, tune in to WHVL's The Centre of it All show this Sunday morning at 11:30!

On Monday, Tuesday and Thursday (yesterday), I cooked and posted three recipes that add up to one great Asian feast:

~ Honey-Sesame Pork w/Garlic-Ginger Sauce ~, recipe found in Categories 3 & 13

~ Mel's Asian-Style Vegetable Saute ~, recipe found in Categories 4 & 13

~ Mel's "Jazzed Up" Jasmine Rice w/Pineapple ~, recipe also found in Categories 4 & 13

To view a short video/slideshow of each one:

Download Honey Sesame Pork w_Garlic-Ginger Sauce-Medium

Download Mel's Asian-Style Vegetable Saute-Medium

Download Mel's %22Jazzed Up%22 Jasmine Rice w_Pineapple-Medium

Kitchen Encounters received one great question via e-mail this week, which I just LOVE, because it has to do with cooking rice (which we did a lot of this week).  For my Provencal Seafood Stew shoot, I prepared white rice on the stovetop using my conventional slow-simmer method.  For my "Jazzed Up" Jasmine Rice post, I prepared jasmine rice in my electric rice steamer!

PICT0993 Q.  Julia comments and asks:  I read your recipe for Provencal Seafood Stew and it seems like the perfect thing for me to serve for my company over Easter weekend.  My father-in-law loves seafood and  I just know everyone else will love it too.  I know I can manage to cook the stew correctly, but I have had bad experiences with rice in general, which makes me want to serve the stew without the rice added to it.  Can you give me any tips for cooking rice?  Is one brand better than the other?  Thanks in advance for the help Mel.  I just love your blog!

A.  Kitchen Encounters:  Julia, thank you so much for the great comment, question and kind words.  You are not alone with your bad rice-cooking experiences.  Let me suffice it to say, I've had some bad rice experiences myself and I am pleased to offer up a little kitchen therapy to you today.  From my own personal experience(s), here is how I recommend you cook white rice on the stovetop (these instructions do not apply to jasmine or Basmati rices, which require a slightly different approach):

PICT1454 Let me start by saying:  All rice is NOT created equal, and it has NOTHING to do with brand name. When you are buying white rice, choose the longest grain you can find, with extra long-grain being my first choice.  I didn't always know this, and apparently, this was the biggest cause for my rice problems. Then, four years ago I did a celebrity chef demonstration with/for Chef John D. Folse, CEC, AAC and author of The Encyclopedia of Cajun & Creole Cuisine.  Without going into any detail, he said to me, "if you're looking for fluffy rice, the longer the grain, the better end product." I have since schooled myself on different types of rice, which all contain different types of starch, which makes all of them cook and fluff up differently, and, they all have their place in this food world.  For instance, medium-grain white rice cooks up creamy, while short-grain white rice cooks up sticky and creamy.  In Melanie's Kitchen, there are applications for them all.  That being said, when it comes to cooking fluffy white rice, Chef Folse's comment sums it all up in a nutshell.

We cooked lots of rice that morning, which Chef was using in both his gumbo and in his jambalaya, which 100 people would be getting a tasting of, and it all came out perfectly.  Tip #1: For fluffy rice, choose the longest grain white rice available to you.

PICT1436 No matter what type of rice you are cooking, rinse the rice before you cook it.  Do not soak it, rinse it, and keep the rice moving while you do. I simply place it in a 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 my water to a boil.  Tip #2:  Rinse the rice. 

PICT0925 The next bit of advice I have for you, I learned from my grandmother and mother:  For every cup of rice you are cooking, add one tablespoon of butter to the water. Here is my basic formula:  To cook 3 cups of white rice, (which will yield 6 cups of cooked rice), in a 4-quart stockpot, bring 6 cups of water, minus 6 tablespoons of water, to which 6 tablespoons of butter has been added, to a rolling boil, meaning:  Subtract 1 tablespoon of water for every tablespoon of butter you add. Never let your liquid go over the 1 cup rice-to-2 cups water ratio.  In fact, for really fluffy rice, you can subtract 2 tablespoons of water for every tablespoon of butter that you add.  This sounds complicated, but it is not.  Once you do this once or twice, you will know exactly what texture you want your rice to be and will be able to control it perfectly using this method of measurement.

You can skip the butter if you want to, but I never do.  No one will ever guess you have added it, but they will wonder why your rice always tastes better than theirs does.  Beef, chicken or vegetable stock can also be used in place of water and butter, which will give your rice deeper flavor, but remember to choose what type of stock to use based upon what you are are serving the rice with, so all of the flavors complement each other.  Tip #3:  For every cup of water you use, subtract 1-2 tablespoons of water and add 1 tablespoon of butter.

PICT0931I "sort of" learned this next "trick" from Chef Folse, as he insisted upon it, but I had always pretty much done it this way as per my grandmother:  Slowly sprinkle the rice into the boiling water, the slower the better.  This really helps to initially keep all of the grains separated.  Briefly stir the mixture and adjust the heat to a very, very gentle simmer, cover and cook for 12-16 minutes.  This timing varies and is determined by the rapidity of your simmer.  Do not uncover or stir during the simmering process, as this disturbs the process, but I find that checking it off and on during the last 3-4 minutes of cooking is like having a good insurance policy in place. When the rice is cooked al dente, remove the pot from the heat and let it sit, covered, for 5-10 minutes.  Fluff the rice with a fork prior to serving.  Tip #4:  Slowly sprinkle the rice into the boiling water, the slower the sprinkle the better.  Tip #5:  Remove the al dente rice from heat, allow it to rest, uncover and fluff with a fork just prior to serving.

PICT1458 Lastly, choose the right type of pot. I can't control what you have available to you in your kitchen, but for best results it should be a heavy-gauge pot with ample room for the simmering rice to gently tumble around in and expand. That doesn't mean it has to be outrageously expensive. My favorite rice cooking pot is an 18/10 stainless steel, 4-quart all-purpose stockpot, which I bought from Williams-Sonoma about 12-15 years ago for about $40.  It has a tight-fitting, clear glass lid which is IDEAL for keeping an eye on how my rice is progressing without lifting the lid.  Three cups of rice always cooks perfectly in it each and every time.  After doing a brief search on the internet, I found my pot to be discontinued, but I did find a 4-quart Chantal stockpot with a tight-fitting glass lid on that I feel I could recommend as a good alternative.  If you are looking to buy a pot of this nature, its cost is presently $89.00.  Tip #6:  Choose an appropriately-sized, heavy-gauge pot with a tight-fitting lid. 

Have a rice weekend everyone... I mean... have a nice weekend everyone, and once again:  To leave a comment or ask a question, simply click on the blue title of any post, scroll to the end of it and type away!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Photos, Commentary and Video/Slideshows courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011) 


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