I never thought I could be quite so excited about rice. Nutty, chewy, buttery, yummy brown rice, topped with golden leeks and meaty crimini mushrooms. Oh, I am so excited about this rice.
Here is the first recipe where the concept behind it doesn’t really apply. That concept is #30: Rinsing (Not Soaking) Makes Rice Fluffy. Theoretically that is true…for white rice. And I will make one of their white rice recipes one day and learn all about starches (I have my eye on the No-Fuss Risotto with Chicken and Herbs), but I was in the mood for brown rice, so instead I put to the test their method of baking, not boiling, brown rice. Baking the rice allows for a more controlled application of indirect heat, like a rice cooker (an appliance I’ve never had nor found need for, although I realize some swear by them). By covering the dish, you can use slightly less water than typically called for, which prevents the rice from becoming soggy and overcooked. Add some flavor elements in with the cooking liquid and you’ve got an easy and delicious side to go with any meal. (Or a meal in itself. I took the leftovers to work for lunch.)
This rice calls for some forethought – it cooks for an entire hour – but much of that is spent with the dish in the oven and you doing nothing. So, you may have to plan ahead to make it, but you don’t have to do much once you’ve got it going.
Preheat your oven to 375° and spread 1½ cups brown rice evenly in an 8-inch square baking dish. Bring 2⅓ cups chicken broth and 2 teaspoons unsalted butter to a boil and add ⅛ teaspoon salt once boiling. Pour the mixture over the rice, cover the dish tightly with two layers of aluminum foil, and place it in the oven until the rice is tender, for about an hour.
For the topping, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 leek, white parts only, sliced into ¼-inch thick rings, and cook stirring until wilted, about 2 minutes. Add 8 ounces sliced crimini mushrooms (the original recipe says 6 ounces, but I like mushrooms, so I added the full package) and ¼ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the moisture has evaporated and mushrooms are browned. Add 1½ teaspoons minced fresh thyme (I forgot to buy fresh, so I used half the amount of dried thyme) and a nice grinding of pepper.
When the rice is done, remove the foil and fluff it with a fork. Cover it with a kitchen towel and let it sit for 5 minutes, then uncover and let it sit for 5 minutes more. Add the mushrooms and leeks and 1 ½ teaspoon vinegar. The recipe calls for sherry vinegar, but I didn’t want to buy a whole new vinegar for this, so I used rice vinegar, because I had that and balsamic and I didn’t feel like balsamic that night. Worked just fine.
I ate the rice with another attempt at the Pan-Seared Thick Cut Strip Steaks, on whose repeat appearance, I am pleased to report, I had much greater success! The steak came out tender and rare with a nicely browned crust – the difference here, which I must write down for posterity, is that I shut off the oven after the rice cooked at 375° and set the steak inside to warm up for 10 minutes, then seared it in a hot pan for 3 minutes each side. I dare say, Ron Swanson himself would have been proud. This only goes to prove that recipes can only do so much – you, in your kitchen, with your tastes, have to figure out what works best for you. Sometimes accidents can produce the most wonderful results.