The Washington Post

Cooking Off the Cuff: Secondhand rice is nice

Editor’s note: We welcome food and travel writer Ed Schneider back to the Food section, where his work first appeared about a decade ago. More recently, you may have seen his guest posts on food blogs at the New York Times.

By way of reintroduction, he writes that he“has been cooking since he was 9 (he invented canned minestrone poured over viciously seared ground beef, if you must know).”

Look for his Cooking Off the Cuff posts Fridays on All We Can Eat.

Cocktail snacks made with leftover Thai jasmine rice, and garnished with diced beet. (Edward Schneider)

Small amounts of leftover rice are among the more problematic of orts, to use a word that now seems to survive only in crossword puzzles. Half a cup, say, is insufficient for another meal and often gets thrown away, either immediately or after a couple of days in the chilly purgatory of the refrigerator.

A friend was here for dinner recently, and my wife, Jackie, and I seemed unaccountably to have nothing in the house to serve with drinks. What we did have was 2/3 cup of the previous evening’s sort-of-paella, made with vegetables and chorizo, though only a hint of the chorizo remained in the form of some of its fat, flavor and ruddy color.

I wondered whether this could be turned into crisp little patties, so I put it and an egg into a container and semi-pureed it with an immersion blender. Sure enough, it turned into a nice-tasting mush, which, when formed into disks 3/8-inch thick and an inch across and browned in olive oil, yielded as pleasing a cocktail snack as any we’ve had for a while. All the flavors of the original dish, but in a form you could pop into your mouth like a tater tot.

A few days later while rummaging around in the fridge, I discovered a half-cup of plain, cooked Thai jasmine rice. Tightly wrapped in plastic, it hadn’t turned to little stony pellets and it retained the wonderful aroma that is this rice’s great virtue. So I added a few tablespoons of milk, an egg and some salt and pepper and gave it a whir with the immersion blender, leaving a batter lumpy with tiny pieces of rice, like miniature pearls. This (barely) held together as thin, silver-dollar-size pancakes when cooked in just enough butter to lubricate the skillet.

But if the mixture were going to be useful it would need to be sturdier. I added a tablespoon or so of flour and tried again. This time, the pancakes could be handled without fear of breakage, and they were delicious: more aromatic than the original batch of rice, thanks probably to the salt.

I had earlier roasted a couple of beets, and I cut one into dice and dressed it with olive oil, a few drops of lemon juice and salt. This was a good and very pretty topping for the pancakes – though not as good as some sort of caviar would have been.

That’s odd, isn’t it: There’s never any leftover caviar lying around at our house.


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