I know there are a lot of you out there who think of brown rice along the same lines as you think of Birkenstocks. Hemp clothing. Rasta locks on young white guys. And I know every time anyone mentions it to you, an inadvertent pained look crosses your face, and you respond automatically with defensive thoughts of double vodka martinis, rare steaks, potatoes, and chocolate cake.
But brown rice isn’t like that. Not really. Not in its heart of hearts. If you knew brown rice like I know brown rice, you wouldn’t just give it a chance, you’d welcome it into your home. Invite it to meet guests. Maybe even vote for it for high office.
Brown rice is absolutely terrific. And I say this as a person who really doesn’t think all that much about health in my food choices. Wait, scratch that. I do think about health, but only in the sense of whether or not what I eat makes me feel good. I never take vitamins. They just scratch my throat and don’t do much for me one way or the other. I do eat a lot of salads. I love the way they taste, plus they make me feel light and energized. And that, after all, is part of the pleasure of eating. Sometimes you like to feel full and like you can’t move an inch before you’ve digested. Sometimes you don’t. It’d be weird, I think, if you felt one way or the other all the time.
Brown rice, properly approached, will not just be your friend, it will be your friend for life. It has a nutty, deep, satisfying taste to it, when you make it right (which, by the way, all that moaning on the part of white rice enthusiasts notwithstanding is just not that hard), and you feel great after you’ve eaten it. It goes with a lot of stuff. And, as a lagniappe on the side, it’s allegedly terrific for you. So, I mean, what’s not to like?
I like it a lot. I think I’ve made that clear. And after a lifetime spent loving white rice, I find, to my surprise, that when there’s a choice,
I spurn my former love. This is a taste thing, not a health thing. Trust me on this.
It’s easy to cook brown rice. Just measure a cup of the stuff into a pot, salt it, and add two scant cups of water. Bring to a boil. Cover it. Turn the heat down as low as you can (I use a flame tamer), and set the timer for 55 minutes. Turn it off and let it sit for 10 minutes or so — you needn’t fuss about this; just as much or as little time as you need to get the rest of the meal together. Fluff with a fork. Eat in any one of a number of ways.
Or: bring a huge pot of water to a boil. Salt. Add as much rice as you want (1 cup will feed two generously as a main course, or four as a side dish…or…). Boil till a grain is tender — about 45 minutes. Drain without being too fussed about getting all the water out. Put in a buttered casserole dish and stick in the oven, set on low, say 250 degrees, till you’re ready to eat it. Fifteen minutes, thirty minutes…it can wait this way an hour.
Now…about what you DO with it…have it plain with butter and soy sauce (I love this; they call it ‘children’s rice’ in Japan)…use it as the landing for a stir fry…put something on top of it, to soak up the juices, a piece of marinated broiled fish, a skewer of lamb kebabs, chicken adobo…
It was chicken adobo that made me want to tell you about brown rice. I cooked a cup of rice to go with the original chicken dish, and then had all these leftovers. So I put the chicken I hadn’t eaten on top of the leftover rice, deglazed the chicken pot with a half cup of water, poured THAT on top of the chicken, and, slapping a lid on it, stuck it in the frig.
When I got home last night, tired and hungry, I just stuck the pot in a 350 degree oven. After about a half hour, the house started to smell wonderful. After forty five minutes, and a revivifying glass of wine, I pulled it out, spooned it onto a plate with some grated carrot salad, and had at it. Halfway through, I noticed I was making little noises of pleasure. That rice had soaked up the extra juices and steamed in them, and crisped a little bit at the bottom, and tasted not just heavenly, but the way dinner would taste in heaven after you’d had a long day cloud jumping. I looked down at my plate and said a ‘thank you’ out loud.
(By the way, chicken adobo is a Filipino dish of chicken legs and thighs cooked in vinegar and soy sauce with lots of garlic and bay leaves and peppercorns until the chicken soaks up the liquid and browns in its own fat. The carrot salad I had with it, both nights, was just grated carrot mixed with minced green onion, tossed with a little sugar mixed in a little lime juice, a little fish sauce and chili oil added. Terrific. Less expensive and tasted infinitely better than any handful of vitamins, and probably a lot healthier for you, too.)