6 Reasons why a Rice Cooker is Indispensable to your Kitchen?

Rice cookers, sometimes referred to as suihanki or denshijaa were first born out of Japan’s post-war revival. Earlier, people used to cook rice on Kamado, large stoves made to go along with giant pots. Working with these stoves was somewhat tricky, controlling temperature and with that cooking delicious rice was difficult.

Japan’s post-war period left companies scrambling for new materials. Due to lack of money, they accepted rice as the payment. All the war factories were closed down and Japan was left with plenty of electricity but few days to use it.These two main factors would lead to a rice cooking revolution.

This was a quick and short history of the rice cooker, let bygones be bygones. Things that are important to consider are the features of rice cookers. So, here are some important features you need to look before buying one.

Rice cooker features

1. Size: Rice cookers are available in different shapes and sizes. Buy the model that best fits your lifestyle. If you only want to cook for yourself, the small one is better and there is no need for a family-sized rice cooker. But if you have a big family or want to host a party, go for the big one.

2. Choosing the best pot: Not only shape and size but cooking pots also vary. Some of them come with chemically treated, non-stick surfaces for better cleaning. Aluminium is by far the best option. But if you don’t want to have such surfaces, or you really care about your good health, go with a more natural option like steel or clay.

3. Programming and settings: There are many best rice cookers that possess more features than others. Even if any rice cooker is strictly made for cooking rice often features rice cooking settings. Want to make brown rice? Hit “Brown” In a mood of having some Kayu rice porridge? Hit the special button. For better convenience, a clock and a timer are also added to the settings. In fact, some models even feature digital screens for detailed options and settings.

Rice cooker 1

4. Timer: Having a timer in the rice cooker is a must-have feature. You can easily set it before you go to the bed and have fresh rice in the morning.

5. Multipurpose versatility: Now you cannot make any excuse that you have a shortage of time to cook them. Rice cookers have taken the cooking convenience to a next level. You can easily steam veggies, broccoli and can even barbecue some meat and enjoy healthy, home cooked a fresh meal in minutes.

If you wish to cook more than rice, you can go with a standard “rice only” model, but its cooking settings can overcook the food. No worries, nowadays rice cookers are available with multipurpose needs. These extra settings involve cooking soups, stews and even steaming vegetables and meats with a click of a button.

6. Charm Points: No doubt while selecting a product you need to see the shape, size, technological advancements and features but CHARM is another important feature you cannot miss. You can find plenty of options in the market, examine all the options and make a choice.

In the mood for Holiday Sides!

I like turkey… but other than cooking and seasoning the bird properly, let’s face it, it’s not too exciting.
No, it’s the side dishes that make the holiday meal interesting.  When else could I put bacon in the Brussels sprouts, sour cream in the potatoes or butter-toasted nuts in the rice?
By the way, if you are looking for a new turkey recipe, here are links to two of my favorites.  Some years we fire up the outdoor turkey fryer and use this recipe from the New York Times.
Other times, we stick to the traditional oven roasting method  and use this recipe:
IMG_6256

Balsamic- Braised Brussels Spouts with Bacon

This recipe is adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques, by Suzanne Goin.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound small Brussels sprouts, washed and trimmed
1/4 pound bacon, finely diced
2 tablespoons finely diced shallots
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup lower sodium chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
Heat a large saute pan over high heat for 2 minutes.  Swirl in the olive oil and butter and wait another minute.  Add the Brussels sprouts, and season them with 1 teaspoon salt and some pepper.  Shake the pan, rolling the Brussels sprouts around to help them brown evenly.  After a few minutes, turn the heat to medium and cook another 3-4 minutes until the sprouts soften slightly.
     Add the diced bacon to the pan and cook a minute or two, until it starts to crisp.  Stir in the shallots and garlic and cook another minute or so, until they are translucent.  Pour in the balsamic vinegar and reduce by half.  Add the chicken stock and reduce to about 1/4 cup, stirring and shaking the pan often to glaze the sprouts.  If you start to run low on liquid before the sprouts are cooked, add a little water to the pan.  You want the Brussels sprouts to be tender yet still have a bit of a crunch to them.  Overcooked Brussels sprouts are the reason that a lot of folks think that they don’t like the vegetable. Serve immediately or transfer to a baking sheet to cool.
IMG_6274

Wild Rice and Toasted Pecan Pilaf

Here is a special rice pilaf that just seems perfect for a holiday meal.  This is from Gourmet Magazine, April 1993.

1 cup pecan halves, chopped coarse
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large onion, halved lengthwise and sliced thin lengthwise
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into julienne strips
1.4 cup olive oil
2 1/2 cups wild rice, (about 1 pound) rinsed well in several changes of water and drained
4 1/2 cups chicken broth

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  In a small baking pan toss the pecans with the butter, the thyme and the salt until they are coated well and roast them in the middle of the oven for 10 minutes, or until they are crisp and fragrant.

In a flameproof casserole, cook the onion and the bell pepper in the oil over moderately low heat, stirring for 5 minutes, or until they are just softened, and with a slotted spoon transfer them to a bowl.  Add the rice to the casserole and cook it, stirring constantly, for 1 minute,  Stir in the broth, heated to boiling, and salt and pepper to taste and bring the mixture to a boil.  Bake the mixture, covered in the middle of the oven for 40 minutes.  Stir in the onion mixture, bake the pilaf , covered, for 30 minutes more, or until the rice is tender and the broth has been absorbed, and stir in the pecans.  Serves 8.

IMG_6285

Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Nutmeg and Sour Cream



I love sweet potatoes but I don’t want them to taste like dessert,  which is why I love this recipe from Emeril Lagasse.

4 large sweet potatoes
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 tablespoons sour cream
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4  pieces
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Rub the sweet potatoes with the oil and place in an ovenproof baking dish and roast potatoes until tender, about 1 hour, turning over after 30 minutes.  When potatoes are cooked, set aside to cool for 10 minutes.  Cut the potatoes in half and squeeze the potato pulp into a three quart saucepan.  Set the flame to medium low and mash gently until smooth with a potato masher.  Add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, sour cream, and butter and fold together until thoroughly combined.  Remove from the heat and serve immediately, or keep warm , covered, until ready to serve.  Serves 4-6

In which I make our favorite Butter-Roasted Potatoes!

Today I am adding a new feature to my little recipe blog.  I’ve decided that I will, from time to time, publish a post that I will call an “In which I…” post (as opposed to an “In the mood for….” post).  In these posts, I will highlight a recipe or a method with detailed instructions and photos.  Mostly this will just be a fun way for me to continue to cook and learn photography at the same time…but it also occurs to me that it might help my kids, grown and almost grown, in their kitchen adventures. So, I’m starting off with something that they love.  It’s very easy but it feels pretty special when you get it right…crispy, buttery, roasted potatoes.

 

IMG_3915

 

In the photos below, I am making butter roasted potatoes to serve 6-8 people.
3 1/2 pounds red potatoes
5 tablespoons melted butter
salt
coarse ground black pepper
12×17 inch heavy rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

 

To peel or not to peel?  That’s easy.  If your potatoes look like this
IMG_3995
Don’t Peel!
On the other hand, if your potatoes look like this…
IMG_3997
Peel!
IMG_3878
IMG_3869
Put potatoes in a large pot, cover with cold water and bring to a boil over high heat.  Let boil one minute then…
IMG_3884
Use a slotted spoon to transfer potatoes to a rimmed baking sheet.  Drizzle with melted butter and season with salt and pepper.  Toss to make sure potatoes are evenly coated then arrange them in a single layer with the largest flat side down.  (if the potatoes are unpeeled, make sure that they are arranged cut side down.)
IMG_3890
IMG_3893
Potatoes should be no closer together than this in order to roast properly.
IMG_3894
IMG_3903
Let potatoes roast undisturbed for 40 minutes or until dark golden brown on the bottom.  (If you try to  toss them around before this bottom crust is formed, they will stick to the pan) Remove from the oven and let sit for 2 minutes then toss them around with a spatula.  At this point, you can either taste for seasonings and serve right away or put them back in the oven for a few minutes.  In any case, they are at their best piping hot out of the oven.
Variations:   Before roasting….season with fresh rosemary and or garlic
                    After roasting….toss with fresh either fresh parsley, chives, or slivered basil
                                             toss with freshly grated Parmesan cheese
IMG_3909