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How to Cook Rice

Until I enc0untered the method that's embedded in the recipe below, cooking rice was a nuisance, requiring exact measurements and precise timing. In the rush of putting a meal together, I'd forget about the rice long enough for it to scorch or dry out or overcook. (Overco0ked rice opens up much like an eyeglass case.) Pierre Franey's recipe, as I recall, specified seventeen minutes of boiling - how's that for specific? Rice that has only been boiled, moreover, never develops the light fluffiness of rice that has been steamed.

Then, as I say, I came across the following recipe for curried shrimp, in one of the wonderful Gourmet collections of recipes aimed at cooking for two. (One of my many dissatisfactions with current editor Ruth Reichl is the termination of the 'In Short Order' column from which the collections were drawn.) The superiority of its rice-cooking method was obvious immediately, and I have stuck with it ever since. In a large quantity of salted water - I use my All-Clad pasta pentola pot - boil rice for ten minutes, covered. Then strain the rice into a sieve or colander that's fine enough to hold the rice and that fits nicely in the mouth of the pot. Fill the bottom quarter or third of the pot with hot water, and return it to the stove, with the sieve resting beneath the lid, and steam the rice for fifteen minutes. If you're not ready to serve the rice immediately, simply turn the flame down as low as you can. The rice may be buttered in the sieve, or flavored, as below, with chopped and sautéed green onions.

Gourmet's curried shrimp is a great treat, and not as complicated to produce as a first glance at the recipe might suggest. Even a slowpoke like me will have no difficulty prepping the other ingredients while the rice cooks. From heating up the sauté pan to serving forth takes about seven or eight minutes.

Curried Chili Shrimp with Scallion Rice

Gourmet’s Quick Kitchen, p. 89

For the Rice

2 teaspoons salt

2/3 cup long-grain rice

For the Sauce

2 small shallots

1 tablespoon peeled fresh gingerroot

1 clove garlic

1 1/2 teaspoon hot peppers

1 tablespoon salt

1/8 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon curry powder

1 small onion, sliced thin

1 can well-stirred unsweetened coconut milk

For the Garnish

1/3 cup finely-chopped white part of scallion plus 1/4 cup thinly sliced scallion greens

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

12 large shrimp, shelled and deveined.

Cook the rice in the salted water: Boil it for ten minutes, and then steam it for fifteen minutes.

Combine the shallots, the gingerroot, the garlic, the peppers, with the salt in a small processor and purée. Transfer to a pestle and work into a paste. In a heavy skillet, heat the oil over moderate heat and cook the paste for about a minute. Add the turmeric, the curry, the onion, and cook over low heat, stirring, for two minutes. Stir in the coconut milk and simmer for four minutes or until the sauce is reduced to about 1/2 cup.

In a small skillet, cook the scallion in the butter until softened and toss with the cooked rice.

Add the shrimp in one layer to the sauce and cook, turning once, for three minutes, or until just cooked.

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