November 7, 2010

New Rice Cooker, New Riceabilities

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CSN recently gave me the opportunity to review a rice cooker and I can honestly say that I’ve had a total blast playing with it over the past several weeks.

For those of you who might wonder why anyone would ever want a seemingly single-function (not to mention LARGE) appliance, allow me to show you exactly how exciting this thing really is.

First, let’s get one thing straight:

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Almost all rice cookers also function as steamers, so there’s another use for it already. Devoted roaster that I am, I don’t do a ton of steaming, but for what it’s worth, I used my rice cooker exclusively for steaming frozen dumplings and broccoli while I was living in China. Why? I didn’t actually know it was a rice cooker at the time. Don’t laugh—if you were able to go out for amazing Chinese food for $4 or less per meal (which also kept us drunk for an entire year, might I add), you wouldn’t have spent much time in your kitchen either.

But I digress.

For my first feat of rice cooker mastery, I cooked rice.

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Don’t laugh—this is a big step for someone who previously could not recognize a rice cooker in the first place.

I was delighted to find that it came out just like it does in restaurants! Perfect and chewy (this was brown rice), and without the usual soggy layer that I always got when I used to cook it stovetop.

I put some in a bowl,

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covered it with some roasted stuff,

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and ate it. The end. I guess that’s not a very exciting story, so for argument’s sake let’s say I also found $10.

Now that I had the hang of rice cookery, I got a little wacky and engaged my favorite rice cooker feature (which we should note is not standard): the delay timer.

It was a Thursday evening after work, and I was about to leave for a 7pm dance class. I didn’t want to have dinner right before dancing because that feels crappy, but I knew I’d be ravenous when I got home, even if I did have a snack to tide me over.

Rice cooker to the rescue! HEAB gave me this brilliant idea, to which I added a few extra ingredients. Into the rice cooker went 1 cup brown rice, 1 can light coconut milk, 1 tbsp curry powder and about 1/2 tsp salt, plus a healthy heap of frozen veggies.

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I set the delay timer to have it finished when I got home from class. I arrived home to a delicious waft of curryness and hastily threw some kabocha (which I’d chopped and tossed with oil and S+P before I left) into the oven to roast. Meanwhile, I stirred 1 can of (drained and rinsed) chickpeas and  a spoonful of peanut butter into the finished rice mixture and left it on the warm setting.

30 minutes later, dinner was served.

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And it was pretty much the best (homemade) thing I’ve eaten in a while.

The lesson here? You can cook rice in liquids other than water! Don’t laugh—we all know someone with a talent for burning water, to whom cooking rice in something else would surely seem extremely dangerous.

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Now we have established that your rice cooker can, in fact, produce an entire meal for you, involving as little or as much work as you’d like. If I hadn’t taken the time to roast that squash, I could have been eating as soon as I was able to get a bowl from the cupboard.

So let’s get fancy, shall we? Let’s test this thing’s limits!

Select a recipe. Gather some extra-special ingredients. A little local kimchi:

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Some toasted nori (The TJ’s clerk told me some customers practically rioted when they ran out of this stuff):

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(Don’t laugh—I know that bad things would happen if anything came between me and my favorite ice cream, so I’ll have a little sympathy for the nori freaks enthusiasts.)

And assemble your first homemade bibimbap! After my rice had cooked, I just threw in the rest of the ingredients, though if you read the recipe I was following you’d note that I could have even steamed the spinach and salmon in the rice cooker too—I chose to do them stovetop, in the interest of time.

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Resetting the cooker back to cook mode meant that the eggs cooked right in there, after a few minutes.

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Stir it all up…

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And FEAST.

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I plated my bibimbap over some arugula for no particular reason except it needed using (I know, I am so not Korean for doing that. News flash.) and served it with some roasted kabocha because I’m obsessed with it right now.

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I used the little nori strips as grabbers for each bite, laying them over the food and pinching the ends together with my chopsticks—observe mad skills:

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And it was so. good.

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Maybe worth rioting.

Do you own a rice cooker? Tell me your favorite recipes!

18 comments:

cravinveggies said...

Well done!

I have a rice cooker, but the only thing that I have used it for is rice - cooked in water, of course... I never considered cooking it in anything else. I think it may have come with a steamer tray for the top, but I've never used it.

Erica said...

Great review. I never thought of purchasing a rice cooker. But I really like the idea of delayed cooking (which is why I love my slow cooker so much). Everything looks fabulous, but the second meal is my fav.

GF Gidget said...

I don't have a rice cooker. But, I am obsessed with Kimchi!

sgcorrie said...

I have a microwave rice cooker and am so going to see if that HEAB recipe will work in it!

BroccoliHut said...

I don't own a rice cooker, but now I want one!!

Namaste gurl said...

I recently got a rice cooker, on sale from none other than Macy's. It's outdated and not modern, but who cares- I love it regardless. And guess who inspired me to do so? Miss Heather, well and Gena. I've made many amazing dishes on it, such as my coconut curry barley, steel cut oats, pumpkin porridge, steamed veggies, etc. It really does the magical trick :)

Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) said...

Diana...awesome post!

First, the review of the rice cooker. Just shows that any rice cooker is good, and that I just need to buy something..soon!

I love!!!!! the recipe you made on your way to dance class. That is SO me! I would maybe sub out the curry for something else but love the addition of drained chickpeas and nutbutter AFTER it's all made...in coconut milk. Oh yeah. I am making that!

And all your other recipes...delish!!!

Shannon said...

the first time i went to use my rice cooker i grabbed my slow cooker... and didn't realize it until i was done. lol. that bibimbap looks awesome!!

elise said...

gena had the brilliant idea to use it for quinoa...and dessertish sweet recipes too...im a total fan!

sophia said...

It also makes great beans! And porridge! Obviously as an Asian, I grew up with rice-cookers so it was always strange to me that some people think it's an abnormal thing to have in the kitchen...just as how I used to think having an oven was sooo cool!

YAY bibimbap! Yay kimchi! Fry it with bacon and rice! :D

Kelsey said...

life is so much easier with a rice cooker- we definitely learn the hard way huh! but its so nice just getting perfectly cooked and steamed fluffy rice instead of the stovetop method which i find works somedays but fails on others lol. mmm everything looks fantastic tossed together!! <3

Katie said...

I REALLY want a rice cooker. Ever since I read this article in the times...

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/01/dining/01rice.html

... I've wanted to make any and everything in it! Your eggy dish looks fabulous.

Gena said...

Wow! You've inspired me to use mine tonight. I haven't get started using it quite regularly enough! What amazing creations you made with yours.

Pure2raw Twins said...

Now I really need to go get a rice cooker. Your dinner looks delicious!!!!

Krista said...

I don't own a rice cooker but after reading this post I think I need to!!

megan @ whatmegansmaking said...

I absolutely love my rice cooker! But relaly, I just cook rice in it :) I'm boring I guess. But I do use it a lot!

Christine (The Raw Project) said...

Wow, seriously considering a rice cooker after this post! Currently I don't have one because I hardly have rice or am not that creative with it. Great review!

Andrea of Care to Eat said...

Being the good half-asian I am, I cook my rice on the stove. I don't need another kitchen appliance in my life, but this post has me 99% convinced I need one. Damn you! :)