Curry Rice with Fennel & Onion
Coveted in the Far East as the staff of life, this rice becomes wonderfully flavorful when prepared with chicken stock, onion, fennel, and seasonings to add taste. A versatile rice dish that’s a cinch to make any day of the week for a healthy side to go with suppers when you’re in a hurry. My number one tip is to start the rice first, and it’ll be perfect once you finish up with the rest of the meal.
I’ve talked about wild rice in my earlier post recipe about Lake-Harvested Wild Rice, Cranberry, & Kale Pilaf, while wild rice is native to the United States. I found it fascinating to learn that wild rice is not botanically rice at all. Instead, it is a sort of cereal grain.
But this recipe isn’t about wild rice. It’s about long grain rice. My learnings lead me on a culinary journey about how it came to be cultivated in America, and how to cook it for the best flavor possible.
From my exploration and learning about wild rice, my next step seemed logical: understanding the other rice varieties and where they originate.
During my cooking life, I’ve known a few Italians who rave about their risotto. If you travel to the Deep South, you will be served fried chicken and rice with gravy. But, when thinking about the origin of rice, my thoughts automatically turn to China, India, Egypt, and Greece. Come to find out that recent genetic and archeological evidence points to the Pearl River Valley region of China, where cultivation dates back at least 8,000 years.
Rice in America
The first record of genuine rice of eastern origin in America dates to 1685, when the crop was produced on the coastal lowlands and islands of South Carolina. According to Ricepedia, the online authority on rice, “It is thought that enslaved people from West Africa who were transported to the Carolinas in the mid-18th century introduced the complex agricultural technology needed to grow rice. Their labor then ensured a flourishing rice industry. By the 20th century, rice was produced in California’s Sacramento Valley. The introduction into California corresponded almost exactly with the timing of the first successful crop in Australia’s New South Wales.”
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Below you’ll find the method for cooking plain long grain rice. I’ve adapted this method slightly to make the Curry Rice with Fennel and Onion that you will see printed in the recipe section of this post.
The Fool-Proof Method for Cooking Long Grain Rice
For plain long-grain rice, I’ve learned that you should rinse the rice by placing it in a large bowl of cold water before cooking it.
Rinse the Rice
Using one cup of rice, fill the bowl with cold water. Use your hand to swirl the rice to release the starch. Then drain it. Repeat this process two times, then drain it in a colander. After the third time, the water should be almost clear. Put the drained rice back in the bowl, cover it with cold water, and let it sit for 10-15 minutes.
Drain and Cook the Rice
Next, drain the rice well. Once drained, put it into a medium-sized saucepan. Add 1-1/2 cups of stock or water and bring it to a boil. Stir once. Cover with a tight-fitting lid. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Even though the liquid seems like a minimum amount, you want to use just enough for the grains to absorb the liquid and become tender. During cooking, you want to resist the temptation to uncover the pot and stir or disturb it with a fork or spoon. When it has reached the total cooking time, turning off the heat and letting it sit for 8 to 10 minutes with the lid still on is recommended. After the resting time is up, remove the cover and stir the rice with a fork to fluff it up.
Proverbs and wise sayings seem to be the root of nearly every culture. Handed down orally over generations from one to another, bits of wisdom can give us insight into life as it was lived before us. I’m especially fascinated with culinary knowledge and sayings passed down through the years. One such bit of Chinese wisdom instructs that the rice is done when “eyes” form on the surface of the rice. However, in my research, I couldn’t find anything about what those “eyes” are or what they might look like when it’s cooked.
Ironically, although these sayings may be highly believed and sometimes current in some circles, they often contradict each other.
For now, I’m going with the method described above. It works for my cooking style, and that’s all that matters when the rice tastes this good.
Quick Curry Rice with Fennel & Onion
- Large skillet
- Medium-size Saucepan
For the Rice
For the Rice
- Rinse the rice, fill the bowl with cold water. Use your hand to swirl the rice around a bit to release the starch. Then drain it. Repeat this process two times, then drain it in a colander. After the third time, the water should be almost clear. Put the drained rice back in the bowl and cover it with cold water and let it sit for 10-15 minutes.
- Drain the rice well and put it into a medium-sized saucepan. Add 1 1/2 cups of stock or water and bring it to a boil, stir once. Cover with a tight-fitting lid. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and let the rice sit covered for 8 to 10 minutes. When the time is up, remove the lid and stir the rice with a fork to fluff it up.
For the Curry Sauce
- While the rice is cooking, melt the butter in a large skillet. Sauté the onion and fennel until they turn translucent. About 10 to 15 minutes.
- Stir in the curry powder, salt, and pepper. Simmer on low for 5 minutes.
- Whisk in the flour until smooth paste forms. Gradually add the Half-n-Half, stirring until the sauce is thickened and smooth.
- Add the cooked rice to the skillet mixture, turning gently until all the liquid is absorbed. Heat lightly for 5 minutes. Add the fennel frond and stir to incorporate.
- Serve very hot, with a sprinkle of more fennel frond, and enjoy!
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(Nutritional values are an approximation. Actual nutritional values may vary due to preparation techniques, variations related to suppliers, regional and seasonal differences, or rounding.)
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