It’s so simple, rice. Everyone knows how to make rice, right? But the ubiquitous two to one ratio of water to rice has never worked for me. It resulted in mushy, waterlogged, split rice. That’s not the rice I was hoping for. No, no, I want Spanish rice.
For those not in the know, Spanish rice or Latin rice is the type of rice that shatters like broken glass when placed on a plate with that big metal spoon. You know which spoon I’m talking about. None of the rice sticks together because each grain is cooked just past al dente. So granular that each kernel can fall through the tines of your fork – and they often do if you cooked rice the way your grandma did.
I’m half Puerto Rican so rice is in my blood. And I mean some good AF, you put yo’ foot in it, type of rice. My Titi can throw down, her arroz con gandules is legendary in El Barrio. From the second the elevator opens, you smell the savory notes of pork, salt, and sofrito melding and becoming one. The flavor is unbeatable but it’s the texture I crave. She almost starves the rice of water and it’s cooked just until it’s done. Making it perfect…
If she ran a restaurant she would receive a Michelin star for consistency alone. I thought, by osmosis, or by lineage, or by the fact that I went to culinary school that I got this. Rice…psssshhhhh, that’s easy.
But, every time I cooked plain ol’ white rice, moro, congri, arroz con gandules, brown rice, whatever, that stuff was no bueno. It was mojado or rather, it was mushy in some parts and crunchy in others.
I was defeated. This may be dramatic but I’ve almost cried over rice. Ok, I have cried and gotten misty-eyed way too many times to count. It wasn’t just about frustration – I equated rice-making to my Latina-ness. Being mixed makes you doubt so many things and this was something I should be able to make! When I couldn’t after years, and I mean years of trying, I felt like maybe my Swiss side took over the rice-mastry genes.
But I didn’t want to give up; I mean I seriously can’t NOT know how to make rice. So, that’s all I cooked. And I realized after a lot of trial and error, that rice isn’t a science, or about proper proportions, it’s about feel and confidence.
You have to trust the rice.
The spoon method – one of the simplest ones, that many abuela’s use, turned out to be the most successful. It’s where you have enough water and rice in the pot that allows a spoon to stand straight up. But it depends on the amount; don’t try it with 1 cup of rice because unless your pot is tiny, the spoon will have trouble standing regardless.
But then again, abuela wouldn’t just make one cup of rice…She makes at least two and usually three…
If you’re wondering why I can’t just ask my Titi, the rice master, I did. But let’s have a moment, Titi doesn’t write recipes, she doesn’t follow recipes, and I don’t know what Tia does. Most amazing cooks don’t. She just said the key words, “You’re adding too much water mija.”
So I figured it out. I definitely was adding too much water but now I listen and watch the rice. The trick to making the perfect rice is allowing the grain to dictate the amount of water you add to the pot.
I never put in more water than the amount of rice. Never! But I have the equal amount of water ready for it’s debut time after the rice has toasted in a little oil. I pour in about half the amount of water and check if the spoon stands. Once it’s upright, I take out a couple of tablespoons of water (just for good measure) and continue cooking in aggressively seasoned water.
Once it comes to a boil, I stir, place a tight-fitting lid on, and turn the heat down to a low simmer, letting that cook for about 15 min. At the 15 min mark, I turn off the heat and let the rice steam under the lid for another 10 min. Never ever open that lid!!! It will be hard. Your hand will aim for that handle, but step away from that pot. You gotta trust the process.
After way too much time getting rice facials, I’m no longer at war with arroz. I finally figured out how to make rice. Any kind of rice. If and when I mess up, and I still do, it’s because I didn’t trust the process.
Rice has helped me be a more confident cook. A more confident Latina. And as Martha Stewart said, that’s a good thing.
Click here [insert hyperlink] for my ultimate white rice recipe.4