Chat Leftovers: Singing the brown rice blues

Deb Lindsey/For the Washington Post - Black Pepper Tofu Pot, a fine use for brown rice.

Well, we certainly didn’t order up the recent deep-freeze, but we just happen to have some hearty antidotes for it. We begin with lentils, ideal cold-weather fare. Weeknight Vegetarian Joe Yonan explores out-of-the-ordinary ways the versatile legumes can be used: How about in tacos, for instance, or in a salad with fresh mozzarella? Read all about it here. (And learn about different lentil varieties here.)

As Joe writes, “If there is a queen of lentils, at least an American one, surely it would be Mollie Katzen, creator of that iconic (at least to vegetarians) lentil-walnut burger recipe in ‘The Moosewood Cookbook’ of 1977 and so many more.” Great news: Mollie Katzenwill the guest of honor at this week’s Free Range chat. More about that later.

VIENNA, VA, JANUARY 9, 2013: Winter salad of shaved cucumber, radish and endive with lemon vinaigrette. Dishware courtesy of Crate & Barrel. (Photo by ASTRID RIECKEN For The Washington Post)

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For now, let’s continue with stew: Brunswick stew, to be specific. Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin traveled to Brunswick County, Va., the self-proclaimed birthplace of the famous meat-and-vegetables concoction, and came back with two recipes. And because he’s an even-handed guy, he dug up a recipe from Brunswick, Ga., also the self-proclaimed birthplace of the stew. We’re not taking sides, but you can make both states’ versions and pick your favorite.

Also in Food this week, Beer columnist Greg Kitsock introduces us to helles, for those of us who want a retro, no-frills brew; and Wine columnist Dave McIntyre considers whether the glass you’re drinking from can elevate what’s in it.

Now, about that chat. We hope you’ll join us for what’s sure to be an interesting hour of culinary give-and-take. It starts here at noon; if you have a question you want answered, pop in early for the best chance of getting a response. If we don’t get to it, never fear: I might answer it in this space next week. As I’m doing for this question from last week’s chat:

I have a problem with cooking brown rice. White rice is no problem; it comes out of the package clean, no rinsing needed. Brown rice is often dirty and needs rinsing. But if I rinse, I don’t know how much water clings to the rice afterwards, and I usually end up with soggy rice. I’ve tried Alton Brown’s baked rice method, which works fine with unrinsed rice, but again, I don’t know how much water to use if rinsing. How can I rinse my brown rice and not end up with soggy rice? Or is it best to skip the rinsing?

No, don’t skip the rinsing. But I think you’re really overthinking the whole moisture thing. Yes, brown rice may be trickier to cook than white rice, but it’s not as if an extra teaspoon of liquid will propel it into a fatal tailspin.

The Alton Brown technique worked for you, so why not just rinse your rice and give it a shot? I think it will work fine. There are scores of user comments with that recipe, and most of them say something along the lines of, “I could never make decent brown rice before, but this method is foolproof!” I’ll bet you a lot of those people rinsed their rice. So, go for it!

The only downside to that recipe, as I see it, is the prep-and-baking time: 70 minutes. If you don’t want to wait that long, try the method I use, which is sort of similar to cooking pasta: For every cup of rice, boil about 6 cups of salted water in a big saucepan. Give your rice a good, thorough rinse under cold running water for half a minute, then dump it into the boiling water and give it a stir. Set the burner on medium heat and let the rice boil for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. (Don’t cover the pan.) Pour the rice into a strainer or colander and shake it a little to get the water out, then quickly pour the rice back into your hot pan, cover the pan and put it back on the stove (but not over heat). Let it sit for 10 minutes in the pan, where it will steam itself into perfection. After 10 minutes, uncover, fluff and serve. Easy!

Now, what to do with your perfect pan of brown rice? I recommend Black Pepper Tofu Pot, which has gotten a lot of love from readers since it appeared in the paper on Dec. 4. Find it, and others, in our Recipe Finder. at www.washingtonpost.com.

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