Last week I started thinking about testing my Spanish Rice recipe again here at 6,100 feet. I had altered my cooking techniques with my white rice recipe at high altitude and was very successful, but still no luck with perfecting Spanish rice, yet. I had almost given up and concluded that I would just have to eat good home-cooked Spanish rice at home in southern California. But last week, I started thinking about how to resolve my Spanish rice dilemma again as I bough fajita meat for dinner. . .
I had test and followed other Spanish/Mexican-style rice recipes by adding various amounts of water and chicken broth to the rice but still couldn’t make the childhood Spanish Rice I grew up with. I “added more water,” advised by many other mountain dwellers, but the rice still came out mushy and had broken into little pieces as I continued to cook the rice, more and more trying to get rid of the water. Then another recipe suggested toasting the rice more, but the rice broke up again was under cooked.
So, I was thinking, the rice needs to be cooked more, more moisture needs to be infused in the rice grain while cooking. But I’ve tried cooking the rice at higher temperatures and for longer amounts of time, but no luck. But then I remembered that my mom always soaked her white rice, as she was taught to do this by my Japanese grandmother. So why not soak the white rice and infuse the grains with hot water, THEN toast the rice for that deep smoky flavor. So I tried this tonight and it worked perfectly. The only little extra step is that you need to dry the rice after soaking as much as you can before you begin to toast it. Honestly, I didn’t do this, but your pan will begin to retain some of the starch from the rice and the starch will begin to brown first before the rice grains begin to toast. So, if you don’t dry the rice with a paper towel or cloth, you will have a slightly scorched pan to clean. Or, you can place the rice in a cotton dish cloth and swing your arm in large circles with the rice gathered in a dish cloth and the water will expel rapidly, like a human salad spinner.
Bottom Line: For high altitude cooking:
- Soak the rice in hot water for about 2 hours.
- Dry the rice. Place the rice in a dish cloth, gather the cloth to hold the damp rice and spin the rice with your arm to expel the water quickly, or pat the rice down with paper towels or tea towels to dry.
- Boil the rice uncovered for 3 minutes, then cover and simmer at low for 25 minutes.
- 1 cup of white long-grain rice
- 1 small white onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
- 2 cups of chicken broth
- 1-1/2 teaspoons of ground cumin (to taste)
- 1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon pepper (to taste)
- Soak the rice in the hottest water from the kitchen tap. Set-aside and allow to soak for at least 2 hours.
- Rinse the rice of starch with water; rinse until the water is clear (about six times).
- Pat rice dry with paper towels to remove most of the water.
- Heat a large skillet to med-high heat.
- Add the rice and toast until most of the rice grains are light to medium brown. Remove from heat and pour rice into a heat-proof bowl. Careful, the bowl will become hot.
- In the same skillet, add the grape seed oil and heat to medium-high. Add the onions and sauté until just transparent. Add the garlic and sauté for 20-30 seconds stirring constantly so that the garlic doesn't burn.
- Add the toasted rice and chicken broth to the onion mixture. Stir to combine. Add the tomato paste, cumin and salt and stir well. Bring to a boil.
- Allow the rice to boil gently for 3-4 minutes uncovered.
- Cover rice and reduce the heat to low and simmer for 25 minutes. (Keep lid on throughout the 25 minutes). Taste the rice. Rice should be "dry-ish" and not real wet. If the rice is still "wet," cover and cook until rice is "dry" and fluffy.
- Follow recipe but do not soak the rice.
- Measure the rice and water with the same vessel.
- Once the rice broth comes to a boil, turn the heat to low and cover immediately.
- Simmer for 25-30 minutes.