Two-Drink Rice

Sometimes it's the simple things that are hard to get right.  In my case, that was rice!

Mother faithfully watched Julia Child, resplendent in black and white, on our television console which was as big as a coffin and just as ornate.  Mother loved to cook and Julia encouraged her, as well as nearly everyone else in North America, to be brave, to take up arms and march into the culinary unknown. Julia was Joan of Arc to the millions of eager postulants emerging from the darkness of TV dinners and jellied salads into the light of possibility. She instilled them with the courage to fail, to flop, and drop and try again!  

In those early days of television, everyone watched everything. There was only one television (there was no room in the average house for more than one of those behemoths) and we were all transfixed by the novelty.  So we children watched Julia as well. She was our "great, big food fairy" - the precursor to the many food fairies of the food network of today.  She taught us bravery, determination, and enthusiasm. Those lessons will stand anyone in good stead no matter what the goal. 

Years later, though still in the dark days before YouTube, I invoked the spirit of Julia as I taught myself to cook. Her lesson that the kitchen is a place to be brave because you are alone and "Who's to know?" kept me going - to the delight of the dog, the enthusiastic and uncritical recipient of many of my failures!  

Oh there were successes, both moderate and glorious - the mocha mousse in a chocolate shell garnished with chocolate leaves formed on leaves from my denuded ficus - comes to mind as a moment when I astonished everyone - including myself!

But my reach forever seemed to exceed my grasp when it came to cooking rice. Minute rice was not for me!  I was a child of Julia, after all.  And so I tried. Long-grain, short grain, Arborio, Basmati. I read cookbooks and I followed instructions faithfully.  But rice eluded me. It was mushy or clumpy, stuck to the bottom of the pan, or chalky at the center. I peered at it, poked and prodded, checked regularly, stirred.  A friend suggested a rice cooker, but I felt that that would be admitting defeat. If all of China could cook rice, why oh why couldn't I?

One fine day, a day in many ways like any other, we had invited friends for dinner, and once again, I plunged, with Julia strengthening my resolve, into a dish that was to be served on ... rice.  Everything else was prepared in advance and warming in the oven. The only thing I had on the go was the rice.  I put it into boiling water in a large, deep frying pan, put the heat on 'low' and put the lid securely on the pan.  

The guests were charming.  Delightful. Entertaining.  I served a round of drinks. We were having a lovely time. Another round of drinks? But of course!  

Suddenly I realized that, in my enjoyment of our guests, time had slipped by and I had forgotten about ... the rice!  

Showing no panic, I rose to my feet and glided (hustled?) to the kitchen, mentally hoping that an alternative meal plan would drop from the heavens.  I got to the stove, remembered an oven mitt, and lifted the lid with trepidation. Yes. You guessed it. There before me was the most glorious, perfect, fluffy rice that I had ever aspired to!  I swear I heard organ music or at least the sound of the penny dropping, as I realized that my mistake, every time, had been lifting the lid so the rice couldn't steam properly. All that stirring and fiddling was the problem. I simply hadn't been brave.  I hadn't remembered Julia. 

I have been cooking "Two-drink Rice" for the many years since, with predictable success. I will admit to a fondness for Arborio, since that was the rice I had chosen that grand day.  I have found that slightly less water is safer than slightly more. A bit more can be added if necessary. Replace the lid and steam on. 

Cocktails are not required.