January 11, 2010

Arroz con a side of burnt, please.

There was a bit of rice left, some bacon, and a few vegetables that Isabella had brought over the day before. I improvised a dish of leftovers and waited almost thirty minutes for her to come out of the bathroom, downing almost half a bottle of wine in that time. I heard her crying with anger on the other side of the wall. When she appeared at the kitchen door her eyes were red and she looked more like a child than ever.
"I'm not sure that I'm still hungry," she murmured.
"Sit down and eat."
We sat at the small table in the middle of the kitchen. Isabella examined her plate of rice and chopped-up bits with some suspicion.
"Eat," I ordered.
She brought a tentative spoonful to her lips.
"It's good," she said.
--The Angel's Game, Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Well, really. How could that not be good? It's the foolproof meal; just throw some leftover rice and various scraps into a pan and let it sit over a high flame until it's sizzlingly fragrant. At one time I made this so often I'd affectionately refer to it as "burnt rice" because I liked to let the rice cook until it was well done (not quite burnt, but crispy). This is the ultimate lazy man's meal. You can even walk away from the stove because it doesn't need to be stirred all that often (in fact, to form a nice crust on the rice, it's best to let it sit untouched for a good chunk of time).

It seems I am not alone in my affinity for crispy rice. Americans have Rice Krispies. The Chinese cook a rice and sausage dish in a stone-like pot; the rice ends up sticking to the pot and can be scraped off at the end as a delicious snack. I've also heard about the practice of turning up the heat at the very end of the Spanish paella cooking process, allowing the rice at the bottom of the pot to get nice and crispy. Rice and crispy? Nice and crispy. These are just several reasons why I don't feel like too much of a freak for coveting my burnt rice.

My parents make fried rice with thinly sliced leftover stems of Chinese broccoli. See above for visual reference. Resourceful and delicious.

Zafon knows it too: He conjured up a dish of leftovers as comfort food for one of the characters when she needed it most. It's a practical comfort food that transcends cultures, methinks. Like his other book, The Shadow of the Wind, this novel (a sequel of sorts) is set in Barcelona. Which leads me to wonder, would Gaudi have liked my burnt rice dish? Not to toot my own horn or anything, but it's a crowd pleaser. Try it sometime. Great for sharing. Just make sure not to literally burn the rice.

1 comment:

Velva said...

Crispy "burnt' rice is delicious. In Middle Eastern cultures they make rice Tatzik (sp?) in which they cook the rice closest to the heat until it forms a crust
(sometimes they layer, potatoes or flat bread too)..When the rice is cooked, it is flipped over. The crust is removed and served alongside the rice. Deliicous!!!

Go ahead and toot your horn! Your burnt rice is delicious.