Friday, February 12, 2010

How to Make Perfect Arroz Blanco

White rice, or arroz blanco, is one of Cuban cuisine's simplest dishes.  It is also one of the easiest to ruin.  I can't tell you how many times I've turned it into mush, undercooked it, even burned it!  Maybe the secret is to have a fancy rice cooker.  Well, I'm a poor graduate student, so I need a stove-top solution.  After much experimenting, here is the protocol I've come up with.

Before we get started, a few helpful hints:
  1. Make sure you use a stock pot or saucepan with a tight-fitting lid.
  2. Choose a stock pot or saucepan that is sized appropriately to the amount of rice you're cooking.  Large stock pots or spaghetti pots are great for 2 cups or more, but if you try to cook less than that in a pot too large, it's more likely to spread too thin and stick to the bottom.
  3. Use long grain or jasmine rice.  I don't know if this is the traditional thing to do.  I do know that the smaller grain, the more likely it is to turn to mush.  Longer grain = more room for absorption.
  4. Be patient!
Now we're ready to begin!

Rule #1: Use 1-1/2 cups of water for every 1 cup of rice.

Rule #2: For every 1 cup of rice, use 1-1/2 tablespoons of butter, 1-1/2 teaspoons of salt, and 1 teaspoon of cumin.

Rule #3: Always rinse your rice. 
 Some plants that process rice can add things like talc.  This isn't harmful to eat, but it can mess up the chemistry involved in cooking rice to a perfect consistency.  Make sure you get rid of any excess water after rinsing.

Next, bring your rinsed and refreshed rice to your saucepan.  This brings us to Rule #4: Coat your rice in butter before cooking it.
 Pour the butter over the rice and gently stir until well-distributed.  This decreases the rice's risk of sticking to the pan.

Rule #5: Cook the rice first before you let it absorb.  This isn't couscous.  Absorption alone won't cut it.  Add the water and spices and heat to medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil.  Cover, and cook for 12 minutes.  Stir occasionally to make sure that your rice isn't sticking to the bottom of the pan.  It's okay to uncover to accomplish this...remember, you're not absorbing yet.

Rule #6: Absorption is key.  As soon as your 12 minutes are up, immediately remove from heat.  Keep it covered and let it sit for 30 minutes.  I know, I know.  That's a long time!  Your next step is to relax and find something to distract yourself with during those 30 minutes.

After your 30 minutes are up, uncover and fluff.

¡Buen provecho!

Did this work for you?  Any other suggestions you'd like to share?  Comment away or email me at cooking4gringas (at) gmail (dot) com! 

1 comment:

  1. My sweetie has a nice rice cooker and I barely make rice because it is so good out of the rice cooker! There are some pretty cheap out there. I don't know what those expensive versions do that cheaper ones don't!
    Maybe my rice isn't so good because I use instant rice, the kroger brand. Maybe someday I will be brave enough to try this.