Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Arroz a la Cubana

What is it? It translates to 'Cuban-style Rice' and it's my kids' favorite meal. I could cook it 3 or 4 times a week, and they'd never get tired of it.

It consists of a healthy-sized serving of rice, eggs fried over easy, and fried plantains. That's it! It's great for when we've got a lot of leftover rice. Plantains are plentiful here, so that's never a problem.

It's a very popular dish in Spain, from what I understand, although they serve it with tomato sauce over the rice.

Add a small fried steak to it, and it suddenly becomes 'Bistek a la Pobre' - 'poor man's steak'.

I use a rice cooker to make my rice. Before I moved to Peru, I never really made regular rice - I always bought Minute Rice. But the Peruvian diet consists of massive amounts of white rice, so it was necessary for me to be able to cook large quantities. I got a 4 qt rice cooker, and after a lot of experimenting, I got the 'Peruvian style' down pretty well.

I usually cook 1 kg of rice at a time. Put the rice in a strainer, and wash it under running water until the water runs clear (or mostly clear). Let as much water as you can run out of it, then put it in the rice cooker.

Next, I add about 2 tbsp of oil - a little extra won't hurt. I use soy oil, but you can use whatever you want. You may want to leave the oil out - it won't hurt the flavor. However, I find that the grains don't clump and stick with the oil.

Next, add in your seasonings. For Peruvian style rice, it's important to add salt and garlic. I add 3 large pinches (maybe 1 tbsp or a little less) and about 1/2 tbsp garlic powder. HOWEVER - I found a new product from Maggi made just for seasoning rice, called 'SazonArroz' in Spanish, and I use that now. You can also put in about 1/2 cup of finely chopped onion.

Finally, the water. In the rice cooker, I find equal parts rice and water work fine - so 1 Kilo of rice = 1 Liter of water. But, if you're cooking a smaller amounts of rice, sometimes all the water evaporates before the rice is fully cooked - so, i usually add a couple tbsps extra of water. Dump the water in, and mix it with a wooden or plastic spoon, so as not to scratch up your non-stick coating.

Turn on the rice cooker, and let it run through it's cycle. I've got a simple one, with just a on/off switch, that pops up like a toaster when it's done. When the cooking cycle finishes, I use my wooden spoon to 'fluff' up the rice some, stir it around a little. Don't stir too vigorously, or you'll get broken rice that clumps and sticks. Just enough to scrape the bottom and move it around a little. Put the top back on, and leave it about 5-10 minutes. After that, it's ready to serve.

Tomorrow, I'll talk about cooking plantains.
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