One of the most common side items served with a meal is rice. Some dishes are simply incomplete without the accompaniment of rice, including gumbo. Unfortunately, rice can be a tricky dish to master as it is easy to mess up. If you have ever made rice that was sticky, mushy, or crunchy (this is the most distasteful outcome), you know how frustrating it can be (and potentially embarrassing) to end up with bad rice. Unlike many dishes, you cannot 'fix' rice if you do not cook it properly (by adjusting up or down any of the ingredients). Once you begin making a batch of rice, you are pretty much committed to a particular outcome.
The science of edible rice is quiet simple: small, hard grains of rice need to absorb enough moisture to become soft enough to eat. Unfortunately, grains of rice can absorb a lot of moisture and will not stop the absorption process naturally. Also (and just as unfortunate), grains of rice will stop absorbing moisture if they are not exposed to enough heat. If you allow rice to absorb too much moisture (by using too much water) you get mushy rice. If you do not allow the rice to absorb enough moisture (either by using too little water, using a high heat which causes the water to evaporate before the rice can absorb the moisture, or 'peeking' while the rice is cooking), you end up with crunchy rice. And here's the worst part: different types of rice absorb moisture differently!
To make good rice, you need to cook everything in a very calculated way and must avoid trying to improvise (ever). My recipe assumes you are using regular long grained rice that you buy at the supermarket.
Things You Will Need
3 1/2 cups water
1 tsp. salt
2 cups long grained rice
1 tsp olive oil (optional)
1 bay leaf (optional, unless you will be using with gumbo in which case, it's required)
Any pot will do, but a 4 quart pot is what I usually use to make rice. It is very important to have a tight fitting lid for the pot. Place pot on the stove over high heat. Add the water and salt. Once the water begins to boil, add the rice and olive oil (this will keep the rice from sticking) and with a wooden spoon or spatula, gently stir the rice once or twice. Add the bay leaf, place lid on the pot, and turn the heat to low.
Set a timer for 15 minutes and walk away. Do not under any circumstances lift the lid to check the rice. If you or anyone helping you lifts the lid, I would suggest just throwing the whole batch away and starting again. I have rarely been successful saving rice in the event of a "peeking incident".
After the timer goes off, remove the pot from the burner (but not the lid). Reset your timer to 10 minutes and wait. Once the timer goes off, fluff the rice (stir gently with a fork). Remove the bay leaf and enjoy! This rice goes great with gumbo.
For richer tasting rice, try using chicken stock instead of water.