Ok, so last night I made "Shrimp and Chicken File' Gumbo" from Anne Willan's "Perfect Soups" books. (Yes, I know that's a pretty circuitous route -- make a Louisianian recipe from a cookbook writer from England who lives in France! but I digress). The Gumbo recipe was about a 6.5 on a scale of 10. Not blow your socks off -- not bad. It's a lot of work, however, no shortcuts, and teaches a good lesson about building a soup/stew on top of a roux in the proper manner. That's what I use Anne Willan for about 1/2 the time (I am a huge fan of all her baking recipes) -- to learn good technique.
Whenever possible, when I use a recipe that is new to me, I try to do everything *exactly* as the recipe indicates, right down to the accompaniments, presentation, and garnishes, so I get the full effect of what the recipe writer was intending. Even if that means doing something different than I usually do. The accompaniments for this were sliced scallions, and "boiled white rice formed into a timbale". Well forming the rice into a timbale is a nice presentation trick (lightly butter a small custard cup, and pack the rice in it, invert onto the soup plate, ladle soup around the rice), but what threw me was the method described for boiling the long-grain rice the recipe called for.
I used Mahatma Extra-Long grain rice. The recipe indicated I bring an (unspecified) amount of (unspecified salinity) salted water to a boil. This is remarkably imprecise for Anne Willan -- who took no less than 6 sentences and three photographs to tell me how to peel, seed, and chop the tomatoes. It says to boil 1 1/2 cups of long grain raw rice for 10-12 minutes, just until tender, then drain and make into timbales, plate, and serve with the soup.
Well well well -- WHY does the package of rice make you do all the measuring of water to be reabsorbed, and increase the cooking time to 20 minutes? This boiled rice was fantastic -- my husband noticed it right away. It was non-starchy, clean tasting, separate, and had a good rice flavor. It was not washed out as I expected it to be. Rice cooked by the package directions was, by comparison, chalky and definitely starchy.
Is the reabosption method to retain vitamins? I don't worry much about the vitamins in rice, as I was serving this with a soup which is very heavy on the vegetables. I think my family and I can get by on vitamins in other foods without having to rely on any vitamins lost in the cooking water of rice.
Does anyone else boil their rice, then drain in a fine strainer, and serve? I really feel like I've been missing out on something. Is this an American regional thing -- or just a weired Anglo-French abberation that Anne slipped into her (excellent) "Perfect" series?
Tell me, Home Cooking board -- what's up with this fine fine method of cooking white rice?
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