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Recipes for Rice

The Art of Reconstituting Your Dinner

by John Raven, Ph.B.

Any day of the week, more people in the world eat rice than any other foodstuff. Rice is a universal staple. The Eskimos and some desert tribes may not have rice, but everyone else does.

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The early European settlers in Texas had rice, but it was about 1880 before rice became a big cash crop in Texas. In 1904 a variety of Japanese rice, along with some Japanese farmers, were imported, and rice really took off. Today southeast Texas is one of the world's leading rice producers.

Types of rice
From the seven thousand varieties of rice, we have three basic types of rice available for our table: brown rice, white rice and wild rice. Wild rice is not really rice but a grass seed so we will save that for another time.

Brown rice is the rice kernel with the inedible outer husk removed and the bran left intact. The bran contains the fiber and gives brown rice its color.

White rice has the bran removed. It is near pure starch.

The brown and white rice camps are divided into grain lengths. We have short grain rice, long grain rice and, of course, medium grain rice. The long grain rice is most popular on European tables. The short grain finds favor with the Orientals as it sticks together and is easier to manage with chopsticks. The medium grain rice is where east and west meet. It has characteristics of both the long and the short grain varieties.

Cooking rice
Since rice is a dry grain, it is cooked in liquid to reconstitute it. Water is the usual medium. Rice can be flavored during the cooking process by using broth or seasoned water for cooking. If using just plain water, a tad of salt makes the end product taste better.

Rule of thumb is one measure of rice -- two measures of water. Most popular cooking method is simply bringing the rice/liquid mix to a boil, reducing the heat to simmer and covering the pot. Most of your white rice will be done in about fifteen minutes. The brown rice will take longer, twenty to forty minutes depending on the type. Always check the cooking instructions on the package.

We have quick-cooking rice, which has been parboiled and dehydrated so that the cooking time is reduced considerably -- usually ten minutes for white rice. My personal favorite for fast, decent white rice is Uncle Ben's boil-in-bag rice. You drop the bag in boiling water and ten minutes later it's done. If you live where the water is treated with a lot of chlorine, you really should get bottled water to cook your rice. The cooking in treated water concentrates the chlorine in your rice, and it ends up tasting and smelling like Clorox.

In my family, there were two kinds of rice: rice and sweet rice. The sweet rice was cooked in the usual method until it was just about done, then some milk was added to the final cooking. The sweet rice was served sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. A little butter and cream makes it even better.

Rice has come into Tex-Mex cooking as a welcome addition. I suppose the south-of-the-border rice was introduced by the Spaniards.

A favorite at our camp meetings is Mexican Rice as prepared by my friend Scott (Scout). Here's how he does it:

Scout's Fried Mexican Rice

Scott says "I usually use a 12-inch skillet or spider for this recipe. It'll feed six hungry Vaqueros jes by itself."

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 cups rice (Texmati preferred)
  • 2 medium onions (chopped)
  • 4 cubes chicken bouillon (Wylers) OR 2 cubes if you use Knorr's Extra Large Size
  • 3-1/2 cups boiling water
  • 19-ounce can whole tomatoes (crush 'em)
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons comino seeds ground in a molcejete
Combine oil and rice in a moderately hot pan and brown, stirring often. When the rice is browned, add the chopped onions and stir until they are translucent. Dissolve the bouillon cubes in the boiling water and add to the pan, along with the tomatoes and comino. Stir well and bring to a boil.

Cover and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes.

Thas it, pard.

This recipe works well with items from the grill as well as regular Tex-Mex menus. Oh, and if you don't happen to have a Molcajete on hand, you can use a mortar and pestle, or rolling pin.

Rice pudding
My personal favorite dessert is rice pudding. Mama made rice pudding with her homemade egg custard. For me, that's a lot of trouble, so I use the boxed stuff.

  • 1 cup fresh cooked rice
  • 1 package vanilla pudding (the kind you cook-not instant), prepared
Mix the two while still hot. If you like raisins add a couple of dozen to the rice as it is cooking. It's best served warm.

Dirty Rice
Our Cajun friends in southeast Texas and Louisiana eat a lot of rice. One way they like it is "dirty". It sounds bad, but it's really a treat.

  • 2 cups uncooked rice
  • 1 pound chicken livers and gizzards
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 green onions or scallions, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Cook the rice according to package instructions.

Cook the gizzards and livers in lightly salted water in a separate pot. After about 10 minutes over medium heat, they should be done enough. Drain and save about 1/2 cup of the liquid. Chop the livers and gizzards.

Brown the ground beef in a skillet. Pour off the grease after the ground beef is done.

Add the chopped livers and gizzards and all of the other ingredients except the rice to the skillet. Cook for another 15 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Stir in the rice and continue cooking for another 5 minutes stirring a few times. If desirable, add a little of the reserved liquid to moisten. But don't use a whole lot of liquid; the finished product needs to be thick enough to eat with a fork.

Chicken and Rice
Here's another family favorite. It's especially good in the cool months of the year.

  • 1 frying-size chicken, cut into serving portions
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • salt and black pepper to taste
Put chicken parts in pot, cover with cool water, add vegetables and bring to boil. Reduce to simmer and cook until chicken is very done.

Remove the chicken from the pot and strain the liquid reserving the vegetables. Use the broth for cooking your rice, and cook according to rice package directions.

When the rice is done, mix the rice with the chicken and the reserved vegetables. If you wish, you can remove the meat from the bones.

Again, we don't our Chicken and Rice to be too soupy -- just a tad on the thick side. Or, if you like it soupy, just add in some broth.

Just don't get uppity about serving rice. Remember, half the people in the world will have rice today.

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