Monday, July 07, 2008

Steamy Fun

Our marriage is a mixed marriage and as such has tension from time to time. Sally is a potato girl and will not eat rice. I will eat potatoes but I dearly love rice. So whenever I eat apart from my wife I take advantage of the situation and cook the foods she won't eat.

One of the pots I insisted I keep when we married was a rice steamer. It died two years into our marriage and I had to scramble to replace it. Most people think of electric contraptions when you mention 'rice steamer'. What I have and had was more typically termed a Charleston rice steamer. It looks an awful lot like a double boiler. What it is, is an absolutely idiot proof method of cooking rice. It's nigh impossible to overcook rice in a Charleston rice steamer. The only peril is if the water in the bottom boils away (which is how mine died).

Ever since law school (20+ years ago), I've been making a variation on Jambalaya in my steamer. I made it again today for lunch, in fact. It uses one pot, which is key for me as I'm the one who does the dishes around here.

Steamy Legal Jumble

1. Boil the water in the bottom of the steamer. Salt this water (a pinch will do)
2. Cut the protein into tasty bite sized chunks. The protein can be any mixture of eggplant, shrimp, sausage, cooked chicken, really any meat or meat substitute that remains coherent. I prefer seafood or sausage as that keeps the pans down to a minimum.
3. Once the water is boiling add 1/2 cup rice + 1/2 cup stock for each person to the steam basket (the top bit).
4. Into the same basket add the protein, chopped celery, onion and bell pepper to taste, chopped garlic, and whatever herbs and peppers you think enhance flavour. If I'm cooking seafood, I usually add a pinch of Bay's for example. Go crazy with herbs! Okra is primo in this.
5. Put the basket on top of the pot of boiling water. Cover.
6. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Set a timer for 30 minutes or more.
7. Walk away and neglect the pot until the timer goes off.
8. Serve and enjoy!

Gourmet cuisine it ain't. And it isn't authentic creole either (they don't seem to use rice steamers). But it is really good one pot cooking.

Today's ingredients were:

Two thin sausages (bought on sale), 2/3 cups rice (I really like rice), 2/3's cup beef stock, remnants of an onion (chopped), 1 small bell pepper, 1 stalk celery (all we had), pepper, scant pinch of salt, basil and herbs fine.

I'm absolutely positive my sister has a variation on this with a better name that is tastier besides.

Addendum: One of the criticisms of Charleston rice steamers is that the rice in the top dries out and is therefore hard to clean. There is a trick to that. About fifteen minutes before you're about to do the dishes, return the bottom portion to a simmer. Put the empty or partially empty top part back on. When you are ready to wash up, scoop at all remaining food in the top and save for leftovers in a microwave safe dish. Place the top part in the sink. Put some dish soap in it. Empty the water from the bottom part into the top part. Let it soak for a bit. It should now clean up a treat.


Anne Coletta said...

Believe it or not, my son, age 12, has already requested as a wedding present from us a rice steamer. He has also asked me to please show his wife (once he gets one) how to make what he calls "good rice"! And, yes, I have an honest to goodness rice steamer. My mother buys one whenever she finds one because they can be very hard to find, even in Charleston!

Matthew said...

I believe it. What's baffling is why they haven't caught on with the rest of the world?

Andrew said...

A good substitute for a rice boiler is an English Pudding boiler. It works on a similar principle except the steam comes up through a central pipe instead of through holes in the side of the upper section. (my pudding boiler has three top sections! I can make three traditional English boiled puddings at once, or LOTS of rice!!)

Of course, finding a pudding boiler in the US is slightly more difficult than a rice boiler.

Fortunately, I had both when I got married. My wife is still amazed by this.

Matthew said...

I get a gmail notice for every reply. That includes getting Google ads. I can not let this pass unnoticed. The two comments above both had ads for this.

Andrew- the pudding boiler sounds good, but where would we put it? Our house is minute.

Oscewicee said...

Thanks for the link to the Charleston rice steamer - I want one of those. The recipe sounds delicious. My favorite recipe for plain rice is to use one cup of rice, one and a half cups of water. Put it on to boil until channels (holes) show in the rice. Turn the heat to low, put a lid on the pot and cook for five minutes more. Turn off the heat and let it sit a minute. I got this from a Chinese cookbook and it works great. My mom can't believe it's on the up and up because there's no stirring. ;-)

Zana said...

So, how do you think your ::wipes drool off chin:: delicious recipe would be translated to a regular pot? Us yahoos here in 'Bama ain't got no fancy fixin's like them rice cookers! I would think the proportions would be the same but the cooking times (and liquid content?) might be different. Still, I really want to try it. Mmmmmm.

Anonymous said...

My daughter loves rice, and while we have a rice steamer, it's not an especially good one. The timer never gets it right and it's slighty over cooked and sticks to the pan. I found this recipe online, and have used it for about four months with happy results. I also have substituted white rice for the brown, and reduced the cooking time to 35 minutes with good results. I know it might seem less convenient, but it has worked out well in my household.

Hands-on time: 10 minutes
Time to table: 80 minutes
Makes 4 cups

To minimize any loss of water through evaporation, cover the saucepan and use the water as soon as it reaches a boil. An 8-inch ceramic baking dish with a lid may be used instead of the baking dish and foil. To double the recipe, use a 13 by 9-inch baking dish; the baking time need not be increased.

1 1/2 cups brown rice
2 1/3 cups water
2 teaspoons unsalted butter or vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Adjust the oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 375 degrees. Spread rice in 8-inch square baking dish.

2. Bring water and butter or oil to boil, covered, in medium saucepan over high heat; once boiling, immediately stir in salt and pour water over rice. Cover baking dish tightly with doubled layer of foil. Bake rice 1 hour, until tender.

3. Remove baking dish from oven and uncover. Fluff rice with dinner fork, then cover dish with clean kitchen towel; let rice stand 5 minutes. Uncover and let rice stand 5 minutes longer; serve immediately.

Dr. Mabuse said...

What's wrong with just cooking rice on the stove? You youngsters, with your new-fangled gizmos. I wouldn't have room on my counter for another electrical appliance - that's why I gave up on the coffee maker after the last one burned out, and started making coffee on the stove with a percolator. It never goes wrong, and the rice cooks perfectly too, as long as it's in a HEAVY pot - I prefer aluminum, because it diffuses the heat more evenly so the rice doesn't burn, and it cleans up easily too.