Every cook has their dirty little secret – even the pros do. Whatever it is, it’s the one dish that never seems to come out right, despite all amount of training or effort. The thought of making it causes palms to sweat and legs to shake. There’s often shame involved, and sometimes tears. My dirty little secret? Well, it’s embarrassing. But to you, dear reader, I will bare my culinary Achilles heel:
Plain white rice.
I know. It’s the simplest thing. One of the most time-tested grains. You don’t even have to season it; you just measure it and cook it, right? Alas, if only it were that easy.
Mysteriously, rice and I just don’t get along. There’s not enough water, or it evaporates before the rice is done, or, for whatever reason, it just doesn’t come out right. It never fails. (Or, more to the point, it always fails.)
During culinary school, the pesky little grains continued to pose problems for me. I figured I was a lost cause, and in order to get by I did what any reasonable person would do: I went to Chinatown and bought a rice cooker. It revolutionized ricemaking for me; not only did it produce perfectly fluffy rice every single time, but it turned on and off automatically and even kept cooked rice warm until it was needed. It was dummy-proof, which was apparently exactly what I was.
Everything was fine and dandy once I had a rice cooker in my life. Fine, that is, until I interviewed in the Fine Cooking test kitchen, where I was asked to actually cook a few dishes to prove my competency in testing recipes. I was nervous as it was, but my stomach dropped when they asked me to make a quick Thai curry—with rice to go with. The curry came out great, but the rice…well, it was okay, but let’s just say the rice cooker could do better. I was convinced that I wouldn’t get the job because of the rice, and so I mentally struck the position from my job search. In the end, the curry and the other dishes I cooked, along with the interview, must have made up for the rice because I was offered the job. (And, obviously, I accepted.) Phew!
Even now, I still stick to the rice cooker at home. I’m not ashamed, and I know I’m not alone. In fact, I know at least two very talented professional cooks who hate—hate!—making rice, because they too carry the rice curse.
So that’s my dirty little secret of cooking. What I want to know now is…what’s yours? If you’re a member of our CooksClub, you can even enter our What Can’t You Cook? contest, for a chance to win a one-on-one cooking class to conquer whatever it is you’ve never quite mastered.