Sadly, I'm not much of a linguist; it's taken me a lifetime to master English, and a few dozen key words (hello, thank you, where, toilet -- sometimes used all together, just like that) in a few other languages.
Occasionally I've had the experience of being in my own country and not being able to speak the language. While this most often happens in ethnic food markets, I also had to learn the local lingo in the Cajun country of South Louisiana (pronounced, locally, loo-zee-ANN-ah), where I fell in love with jambalaya (jam-boh-LIE-ah).
For years, jambalaya was a fixture in our kitchen. I'd make it a couple of times a month or more. The heat of the Tabasco sauce is compelling; the more I used, the more I could tolerate, the more I wanted to put in the next batch, the more I craved that next batch (yes, this is the definition of addiction...).
So I needed to keep more and more long grain white rice on hand. I graduated quickly from the one-pound to the three-pound box. Now I go straight for the five-pound bag that fits perfectly into my one-gallon storage jar.
As popular as rice is in the American South, its origins go back more than 3,500 years to India and the Niger River delta in Africa. China, India and Indonesia remain the world's primary producers; in the United States, the southern colonies of South Carolina and Georgia began to grow rice fairly recently (in 1694), and they derived great wealth from their rice crops.
The modern production method, removing the bran and germ layers of brown rice until all that remains is the inner white kernel, results in a highly-polished rice that cooks quickly; it also strips the rice of many nutrients, so a number of companies sell enriched white rice, which restores some of those nutrients. Long grain rice has slender kernels, four or five times longer than they are wide, that expand in both length and width when cooked, yet remain separate and fluffy.
When you bring rice home from the market, transfer it from its bag to an airtight container, to prevent any little stowaways from moving in. Stored in this way, rice will keep for a year or more.
In the kitchen, long grain white rice is like all-purpose flour; if you're missing the particular rice called for in a recipe, long grain always steps up to the plate, whether as a side dish, soup, casserole, biryani, pilaf or a lovely sweet pudding.
Golden festival rice
A beautiful accompaniment to any Indonesian or Indian menu. Inspired by several cookbooks. Serves 8.
2-1/2 cups canned coconut milk diluted with 2-1/2 cups water
4 cups long grain white rice
2 large shallots, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil
2-1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 Tbsp minced garlic
3 Tbsp minced fresh chives
3 Tbsp minced red hot chile
Spread rice out on a tray or flat surface, and pick over by hand to remove any foreign bits. Place the rice in a bowl and add cold water to cover. Stir vigorously with your fingertips, then drain off the water. Repeat several times until the water runs almost clear.
Drain rice and transfer to a saucepan. Add the coconut milk, turmeric and garlic, and blend well. Place over medium high heat and bring to a boil. Stir once, reduce the heat to very low, cover tightly, and cook until the coconut milk is absorbed, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, add vegetable oil to a saute pan, and turn heat to medium. Fry the shallots until crispy and brown.
Spoon rice into a buttered 2 quart bowl, let sit for 10 minutes, and then invert onto a serving plate. Crown the rice with fried shallot, chives and chile.
More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Beef hot links (Recipe: Lydia's very famous jambalaya
Risotto ai funghi
Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.