Chat Leftovers: Converted Rice, Boneless Chix Woes

Rice rice baby: I have a burning question. What is converted rice? Did it change religion, or was something done to affect nutrition or cooking time? Should I prepare it differently than I would, say, Jasmine rice?

Let’s start with some basics. Brown and white rice begin similarly, with the removal of its outer (and inedible) husk, aka hull. At this stage, the rice is considered “brown,” with its bran and germ intact (as well as fiber and nutrients). When rice goes through the additional steps of having its bran and germ removed, it becomes “white.”

Converted rice (as in Uncle Ben’s) is white rice that’s been parboiled (or steamed) and then dried before milling, resulting in a beige-ier shade, a less sticky texture and purportedly more nutrients. It does take a little bit more time to cook than regular white rice, but check that orange Uncle Ben’s box for further details. Don’t confuse this with instant rice, which is pre-cooked then dehydrated. I find converted rice kind of boring compared to fragrant varieties such as Jasmine, Basmati or Wehani, but hey, it’ll do the job when you need it done.

Rockville, Md.: I have two boneless chicken breasts and if I have to cook chicken parm one more time I'm going to scream. However, my hubby likes a zesty meal so baked chicken isn't really an option (unless it's got a bite or zing to it which I don't know how to do) and it's too cold to grill. Any ideas on how to liven up my chicken so it has lots of zesty flavor?

Do what I did last night with a handful of boneless thighs that were staring me in the face: Make an ad hoc pollo y frijoles kind of stew thing. I like to get started with my black beans first, particularly if I’m using soaked, dried beans, but canned beans will do in a pinch.

For dried, add enough water to cover beans, plus another inch of water, and bring up to a boil for at least two minutes. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook beans at a simmer. Cook by themselves for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare chicken: Season with salt and pepper. Measure out 2 teaspoons cumin, 1 teaspoon coriander, 1 teaspoon salt and at least ½ teaspoon cayenne or your favorite paprika.

Chop an onion and a few minced cloves of garlic.

Heat your favorite skillet and add 3 tablespoons vegetable oil. Add chicken and brown on each side. Remove from pan. Add onions and garlic, and cook over medium heat until softened, then add spice mixture. With a wooden spoon, stir until a paste is formed. Return chicken to pan and coat with spices and aromatics.

Pour entire contents of pan into pot of beans. Increase heat and allow mixture to come up to a simmer, then cover and cook until beans are tender. Everything should be done in about 90 minutes, and you don’t need to fret by the stove. Serve with rice and/or spinach.

Plan B, with canned beans: Brown the chicken first. To season beans, add a few minced cloves of garlic and one tablespoon of olive oil. Cook over medium heat until slightly softened, then add beans (I’d use 2 cans), 1 teaspoon of dried oregano (if you don’t have, don’t worry.) and ½ chipotle chile in adobo sauce, finely chopped. Bring up to a simmer. Add browned chicken and allow everything to talk to each other until chicken is cooked through.

PB-Salmonella Update
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reporting that as of Sunday night (Jan. 25), the number of infected persons stands at 501 (up from 488 on Friday), with 8 related deaths. Food safety attorney Bill Marler, whom I interviewed last week, is updating the situation on a nearly hourly basis in his Marler Blog.

Ask me about PB matters or anything else that's on your burners today at 1 ET for What's Cooking.

By Kim ODonnel |  January 27, 2009; 10:00 AM ET Chat Leftovers
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Rockville: Chicken enchiladas are another nice alternative. You could even make some homemade fried-optional refried black beans.

Posted by: davemarks | January 27, 2009 12:01 PM

I didn't get my paean to the pressure cooker in before the chat ended, but I wanted to respond to the chatter who got one as a gift. I LOVE mine. In the summer I use it nearly every night (green beans, wax beans, limas, romas, etc., or just to cook things quicker so as to heat up the kitchen less).

In the winter, almost that much. You can go from dried beans to dinner in under an hour with the pc. Also, the pc cooks beef and chicken until it melts in your mouth. If I am making beef stew the first step is cooking the beef in one cup of red wine in the pc--that gets the flavor into the beef. I make chicken soup in the pc--cook the whole chicken in water to cover under pressure for 20 minutes. Let it come down, take the chicken out and off the bone. Put the bones back in, cook under pressure for 45 minutes, there is your rich chicken stock. You can cook rice or pasta in the pc in a bowl placed on top of another dish you are making (if the cooking times are similar). You can put frozen green beans in foil on top of your other dish and they will cook simultaneously. I frequently contemplate getting another pressure cooker for times when I want to make multiple pc dishes.

What I like about the pc over the slow cooker is I don't have the time in the morning to get it all ready--nor am I that organized. With the pc, I can decide on the way home what I want to cook and make it from start to finish while helping kids with homework. Also, I leave for work pretty early, and it would be too long from then until dinner--my food would over cook in the slow cooker.

Try the Lorna Sass cookbooks "Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure" and "Pressure Perfect" (the latter includes many meat recipes that I love). There is even a recipe for cheesecake made in the pc! (haven't tried it)

Posted by: janedoe5 | January 27, 2009 10:06 PM

For the rice person: The problem is most likely too much stirring. I wouldn't have thought of that, except just the other day, my husband cooked rice in our new rice cooker and it ended up as one huge starchy ball. The directions with the cooker say that you should take the lid off and stir the rice and water after so many minutes. When I asked him what he did, he said he had stirred and stirred and stirred it,which apparently released all of the starch and made one big mess. I had previously used the rice cooker and the rice turned out perfectly with one quick stir at the appointed time. We got the rice cooker at CVS for $10 (on sale plus a coupon) and it has proven to be a great investment.

Posted by: margaret6 | January 28, 2009 9:11 AM

I've been using the Cook's Illustrated pilaf method for cooking long grain white rice, such as basmati. Rinse 1 cup of rice until water runs clear, then drain well. Heat 2 teaspoons (not tablespoons) of oil in a medium sauce pan. Saute rice over medium heat for about 3 minutes, until grains become opaque and stop sticking to pan. Add 1.5 cups of water plus salt to taste, bring to a boil, stir once, then lower heat to barely a simmer. Cover and cook for about 10-15 minutes, until all water is absorbed. Let stand off heat, covered, 10-15 minutes.

Posted by: lgdc | January 28, 2009 10:50 AM

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