At our engagement party my husband’s uncle told me that the thing you say to congratulate the newly engaged involves asking the question “can you cook rice yet?”. What they are really asking is whether you have learned to cook rice the way your mother-in-law does.
My own mother was an excellent cook, a devotee of Julia Child, who worked in the food business as one of my sisters still does today. As a teenager I helped out at enough food shows that “proud member of the NRA” has always meant an allegiance to the National Restaurant Association to me. Based on my history, I’ve had a chance to sample some pretty fantastic cooking over the years. Yet I have to say that my mother-in-law’s cooking truly did approach the divine, so learning to cook rice the way she did was a privilege, not a chore.
Use basmati and only basmati. It’s nutty flavor is a reward unto itself.
Measure out however much rice you want to cook, put it in a bowl, and rinse it repeatedly in cool water to get the starchiness out of the rice. You’ll know you’re done when the water you wash out of the bowl runs mostly clear rather than cloudy.
In the meantime, put a pan on the stove at medium high heat with some olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. When the rice has been properly washed and drained, dump it into the hot pan with an amount of cold water equal to the amount of rice. (if you used a cup of rice, use a cup of water). Season with salt and a pinch of turmeric, (which will ultimately turn the rice a lovely pale yellow).
Let the rice boil uncovered on top of the stove until the water level has dropped enough that the bubbles are popping on the surface of the rice. At this point, turn the heat down to low and cover the rice to let it finish cooking. This takes about 20 minutes. If you use a pan with a glass lid, cook it until the condensation stops forming on the lid of the pan.
When it looks done, fluff it with a fork, return the lid, and let it sit off the heat until you are ready to serve. If it’s done right, the individual kernels of rice will spill out of the pan in separate bits. If you like to you can also scrape out the golden brown crust that’s formed at the bottom of the pan. This crunchy bits are a nutty, tasty addition to any dish.