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Techniques - Grains and Pasta

DK PublishingDK Publishing 2/07/2014 DKBooks
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© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

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© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

Grains and Pasta

Cook rice by absorption

In the West, packaged rice is thoroughly cleaned, so soaking it before cooking will only wash away the nutrients

Put the rice and water or stock into a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stir once, and lower the heat to simmer uncovered for 10–12 minutes, or until all or almost all the liquid is absorbed.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and cover with a clean, folded towel and a tight-fitting lid. Return to the lowest heat and leave the rice to steam, without removing the lid, for 10 minutes.

Remove the folded towel and replace the lid. Leave the rice to sit for 5 minutes, covered with the lid. Uncover, fluff the rice with a fork, and serve.


Perfect rice

For perfect rice, always buy good-quality rice and use a heavy-bottomed pan with a tight-fitting lid. There should be 1 1/2–2 times as much water as there is rice. (Follow the package directions if there are any.) Do not salt the cooking water, as it will cause the rice grains to rupture. Instead, try flavoring the rice using stock instead of water.


Make basic risotto

The best risotto is made from a combination of rich, well-flavored stock, and constant stirring

Heat the stock in a saucepan and keep at a gentle simmer. In a separate, large saucepan, heat the oil and butter. When the butter is melted, add the onion, and cook until it is softened, but not brown. Stir in the risotto rice, coating the grains in the butter and oil.

Add the wine, bring to a gentle boil, and stir until absorbed. Add a ladleful of simmering stock, and stir until it is absorbed. Continue adding stock by the ladleful, stirring, until the rice is tender, but al dente. This will take 20–25 minutes.

Stir in a little more butter, and some Parmesan. Season to taste with salt and pepper, cover the saucepan, and remove from the heat. Let the risotto stand for 2 minutes before serving.

Risotto should be creamy, but never mushy, with distinguishably separate grains of rice. Only use risotto rice. The medium-short stubby grains will swell, but still maintain their individual shape. Use any well-flavored fish, chicken, or vegetable stock.


Make soft and set polenta

A staple of Italian cooking, polenta, made from cornmeal, is one of the most versatile grains


For soft polenta

Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil. Gradually pour in the polenta, whisking quickly and continuously to ensure that no lumps form, and the mixture is smooth.

Reduce the heat to very low, and continue cooking for 40–45 minutes, until creamy and coming away from the edge of the pan. Whisk occasionally to prevent a skin. Stir in butter and Parmesan, and season.


For set polenta

Make soft polenta, but omit the butter and cheese. Pour onto an oiled baking sheet, spread with a wet spatula to a thickness of 3/4in (2cm), then cool and set. (Keep up to 4 days, covered, in the refrigerator.)

When ready to use, place the polenta onto a cutting board. Cut into the desired shapes. Brush with olive oil, then cook on a hot, ridged grill pan for about 3–5 minutes on each side.


Cook dried pasta

Keep dried pasta on hand, as it is the start of many quick dishes

Bring a large pan of salted water to a rapid boil, and gently pour in the pasta. Stir well.

Boil uncovered, using the recommended cooking time on the package as a guide, until al dente.

Drain the pasta by pouring it into a large colander, shaking it gently to remove any excess water.


How to tell when pasta is al dente

Al dente is Italian for “to the tooth,” which refers to the slightly chewy texture of perfectly cooked pasta. It is best to refer to your taste, rather than the package instructions. Test often. Use tongs or a slotted spoon to remove a piece of pasta from the cooking water, and rinse it under cold water to cool. Take a bite–it should retain some texture. Don’t believe you can test it by tossing it against the wall to see if it sticks–that would surely indicate overcooked pasta. If you will be cooking the pasta further as part of a recipe, it is especially important not to overcook it.


Boil noodles

Most Asian noodles are boiled for a few minutes before using; rice noodles only need to be soaked in boiling water

To boil Asian-style noodles, bring a large saucepan of water to a rolling boil. Add the noodles, allow the water to return to a boil, then cook until the noodles are softened and pliable, about 2 minutes.

Drain the noodles in a strainer. Refresh under cold running water to prevent them from cooking further, then drain. Toss the noodles with a little oil to prevent them from sticking. Use immediately, or proceed with a recipe.

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