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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Fast Perfect Brown Rice

Do you own a pressure cooker? Does it sit in some dark corner of your cabinets, collecting dust? Did you inherit it from your grandmother and fear that it will blow up? I have a good reason for you to break out that pressure cooker: brown rice. If you don't have a pressure cooker, consider this - you can cook perfect brown rice in about 25 minutes. I know there are plenty of folks who don't like brown rice but I'm here to tell you this is good stuff. I much prefer brown rice to white rice. Its flavor is nuttier and I like the chewy texture. You can now find basmati brown rice which is even better. White rice is just blah in comparison.

In my house, we eat more brown rice than white rice (much to my daughter's chagrin). And because of that trusty pressure cooker, I don't even have to think very far ahead to make it.

Pressure cookers are good for lots of other things too. You can go from dried beans to soft and creamy in under 30 minutes. It's great for cooking stews and soups, simulating hours of stovetop cooking. They are very popular in India, where my pressure cooker was manufactured. Why? Because they appreciate the sped-up slow-cooked convenience of the thing.

I don't suggest you use grandma's ancient pressure cooker. In the old days, pressure cookers did blow up, or so I have read. Nowadays, pressure cooker have multiple safety systems to prevent an all-out explosion. Which is a good reason to invest in a modern one. You can get a decent one for under $50. That's a pretty good deal in cookware.

This isn't really a recipe - more a method. It's a variation on a method in Lorna Sass's Cooking Under Pressure. Last night, I skipped a step - boiling the water before adding it to the rice - and it went from OK brown rice to perfect. I've provided measurements for cooking 1 1/2 cups rice (our typical batch) or 1 cup rice.

Fast Brown Rice
(makes 3 1/2 cups rice if cooking 1 1/2 cups raw rice; 2 1/4 cups if cooking 1 cup raw rice)

1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups brown rice (1 cup rice)
2 1/2 cups water (1 3/4 cups water)

Heat oil over medium heat in pressure cooker. Add rice and toss in oil until rice becomes fragrant. Do not brown. Add water. Lock on the lid and turn heat to high. When the pressure cooker reaches pressure (and how you know this will depend on the model you have; mine has a jiggle top), turn down heat to just maintain pressure and cook for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and allow pressure to drop for 10 minutes. Release remaining pressure and open the top. Fluff rice with a fork and serve.

Note: You can substitute stock for water to add more flavor. You can add  1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon salt to the water but I never salt my rice.