Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Cooking. Slow.

Turkey Coconut Rice with Chickpeas and Raisins
 There's something so comforting about a rice dish. It's warm and filling, just right for a nippy day. You feel like putting it into a bowl, not on a plate. Use a spoon instead of a fork. Everything round and delicious and... like home.

Problem is: it can take a while to make the rice. I mean, not forever... but there needs to be a little forethought and planning involved than usually takes place in this busy house. Small hungry child running around the kitchen? Let's chop something up right now! Hence not as much rice around here as I'd like. Or slow cooked stew. Or baked things.

But maybe the New Year is a good time to remember that slowing down is a good thing. That making food in a panicked state means making panicked food. And while I do intend to translate this into using my slow cooker, I may need to work my way up to that kind of planning. (i.e. thinking about dinner during breakfast)

Last night, instead, I made rice.

What's great about most starches like rice or pasta or potatoes or quinoa or polenta or ... well, I could go on here ... is that while they have their own inherent qualities, they're usually used as a canvas for other flavors.  And what a canvas rice is!   It's all about texture and flavor with rice.  Is it fluffy and light?  Dense and glutinous?  slightly cracked, crispy and sweet?  hefty rich brown?   Each of these has complete categories of cuisine dedicated to them: from pilafs and biryanis to sticky rice desserts, to stir fried vegetables over cracked white rice, to jambalayas and even stuffing.   The possibilities are endless. 

But last night, I wasn't thinking about that cornucopia of flavor; there was no time.  I was in dinner panic mode.  I had only a few things around the kitchen... a pound of ground turkey and... well, that was the furthest I'd thought.  Q was running around the house being his adorable self, and I was torn between being with him or making food for us. 

He hadn't been eating well all day and had to be hungry but he wasn't falling for any of my cheap tricks: Chex "crackers" in a bowl, craisins, even blueberries weren't enticing him.  And he has suddenly decided to give up his previously favorite thing in the world, hot dogs.  (His new favorite thing in the world is bacon.  So much so that he has decided there is a "bacon tube" in his bedroom that he pretends dispenses bacon at his whim.  He is a gracious sharer of this imaginary bacon, I am proud to say ~ but hey, it's pretend bacon!)  

So in the service of nutrition, I quickly sauteed up some onions and ground turkey.  I wanted to try something a little different... so I threw in some cumin, cloves, cinnamon, smoked paprika, and chicken broth powder.   Then for some "finger food" additions, I put in a can of chickpeas and a handful of raisins.   By then I felt like I was channeling the Near East ~ but it needed something a little richer in there, so I threw in a whole can of coconut milk.   ... and, gasp!  wayyyyyy to much liquid!  what to do? 

There was easily an extra cup of liquid that needed to be disposed of, but I wasn't going to throw away those lovely spices just to get rid of it.   What could soak it all up and still make the dish better?   Noodles?  Nah.  Potatoes?  don't have any. 

Then it hit me.  Rice.  

I threw in about a cup and a half of jasmine rice and stirred it down.  Clearly it needed a bit more liquid to get the 2:1 ratio right so I added about 2/3 cup more water.  I let it boil, then stirred, covered and turned it down to a simmer... and walked away to play with my son.   Ahh.   

It ended up rich without tasting at all like coconut, dense and warm with just the right mix of meat, chickpeas and raisins, and overall... delicious! 

So here's the actual recipe which makes it look like I planned all this.  But this was a happy accident. 

Turkey Coconut Rice with Chickpeas and Raisins

2 T oil for frying (non allergenic ... I use olive or canola)
1 cup chopped onions (I use the equivalent frozen because it's faster and they're pre-chopped!)
1 T sodium-free chicken broth powder (I use Herb-ox)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp cinnamon
dash cardamom (optional)
1 lb ground turkey
1  15 oz can of chick peas, drained
1 cup raisins
1  15 oz can of coconut milk (not the stuff you drink by the way... just good old coconut milk)
1 1/3 cups jasmine or other white rice
2/3 cup water

1. In a deep frying pan or wide stock pan, sautee onions in a couple T of oil until transparent, stirring occasionally.
2. Add the spices to the onions and continue to sautee for a couple minutes, until onions are no longer releasing liquid
3. Add ground turkey, break apart and brown.
4. Add can of chickpeas and the raisins, stirring all together for about 2 - 3 minutes
5. Add can of coconut milk and stir.  Heat the liquid until boiling slightly
6. Add the rice and water.  Stir until all grains are covered by the liquid. 
7. Let the mixture reach another boil.  Cover, turn down the heat to simmer / low for around 20 minutes.  Check around 15 minutes in to ensure the rice has enough water and if it's necessary, add 1/4 cup more water. 
8. Turn off heat and keep covered for a few extra minutes to ensure rice is fully cooked.  Fluff and serve!

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