All about Rice

Rice is one of the staples in nearly every cuisine in the world, from Chinese to Indian to good, old-fashioned Southern cooking. The natural accompaniment to baked chicken has been grown since at least 5000 B.C.
Enterprising colonists in South Carolina began cultivatation of rice soon after they arrived in America. It began quite by accident when a storm-battered ship sailing from Madagascar limped into  Charleston harbor. The ship’s captain made a gift of a small quantity of “Golde Seed Rice” (named for its color) to a local planter. By 1726, “Carolina Golde” was considered the best rice in the world. Rice was America’s largest export crop until “King Cotton” took over in the first quarter of the 19th century, and rice sales helped fund the American Revolution.

Uncle Ben probably never told you that there are more than 7,000 varieties of rice. He also probably failed to mention that in addition to Louisiana, one of the largest rice producing states is … Arkansas! Texas , Minnesota and California round out the list.

Know your rice

Milled white rice is common rice from which all the hull and bran have been removed. It has little nutritional value. Converted rice is rice that has been steamed before hulling.  Some vitamins and minerals are driven to the center of the rice, making it better than milled white rice but it still isn’t hitting on much nutritionally. Next comes instant or quick rice, which is common white rice, precooked, then dehydrated.
Brown rice is one of my favorites. Only the outer hull has been removed from brown rice. Everything else, including the bran, is intact. The vitamins and minerals are retained. It has a chewy, nut-like character. It also takes 45 minutes to cook, making it not as convenient for harried families trying to put supper on the table fast.
Wild rice is really an aquatic grass, which is not cultivated. It ‘s similar to wheat in its nutrition but contributes a bit more riboflavin (vitamin B-2). Wild rice is expensive, for obvious reasons, but it tastes great and has tons of nutrients. To economize, combine it with brown rice or another cooked grain.
Long-, medium- and short-grain  rice refer only to the length of the grain and are not types of rice.  The longer the grain, the less gluten it contains, so long-grain rice remains separate better than short grain.  It is preferred for most dishes. Short grains are best for ring molds or loaves, as the grains stick together voluntarily.

Cooking tips

For best results, always follow package directions. If you’re buying bulk rice with no directions on the package, combine 1 cup rice, 1 2/3 cups liquid , 1 teaspoon salt (optional) and 1 teaspoon butter or margarine (optional) in 2- to 3-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil; stir once or twice. Reduce heat; cover and simmer. It will cook in approximately 20 minutes. If the rice is not quite tender or liquid is not absorbed, replace and cook 2 to 4 minutes longer. Fluff with a fork before serving.
Don’t wash rice before cooking, as it washes away some of the nutrients.
To test for doneness, pinch a grain of cooked rice between your thumbnail and index finger. It should not have a hard core.
If the rice is done a few minutes early, lay a slice of fresh bread on top. The bread will absorb moisture and keep the rice from sticking together so badly.
Uncooked rice should be stored in a cool, dry place (notice how no one ever tells you to store something in a hot, wet place?)  for up to one year. Cooked rice can be refrigerated up to one week in a tightly covered container or in the freezer for approximately six months.

Basic Rice Recipe

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