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Living in fear of rice

Yup, I've been to culinary school and I can't cook rice. What can't you cook? If you're a member of our CooksClub, enter the What Can't You Cook? contest, for a chance to win a one-on-one cooking class to conquer your culinary Everest.

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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.

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  • User avater
    aqn | 09/24/2009

    Betilu: for over-easy eggs, I use a new-ish non-stick pan, and when I turn the egg(s), I scoop it up with a spatula, lift it off the pan then TURN THE PAN OVER on top of the egg then gently turn both pan & spatula (and egg) back. It's a bit like how you might turn a Spanish tortilla: cover the pan with a plate, flip the pan over, then remove the pan and slide the tortilla off the plate back into the pan.

    You can also just turn it with a spatula: wait until the white has set up (so the bottom of the yolk is sturdy) and turn it over VERY SLLLLOOOOOWLY and very gently with a spatula.

  • Janet_from_Tucson | 05/06/2009

    Everytime I see something about trouble cooking rice, I am bewildered. It is simple: twice as much water as rice in a pan with a lid. Bring it to a boil, then it put it on low/medium low dependin on your stove. Cook it for 15 minutes. Let it steam for 10. Keep the lid on for the entire time - from start to finish. Fluff with fork. I have cooked it that way since I was 12. I grew up on rice like some people grow up on potatoes.

    I can't for the life of me make a pie crust.

  • Betilu | 04/30/2009

    My nemesis is over easy eggs. Is there a secret to --not breaking the yolk and having both sides cooked just right? (I love my rice cooker!!)

  • User avater
    aqn | 04/30/2009

    You will never see crisp potato in any style from my kitchen. Mashed, soggy, burnt, etc. but never crispy.

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