Making a pot of rice to serve with dinner is nearly automatic. But plain rice day after day can get, well, a little boring, don't you think? Here are three tricks I use to give my everyday rice a little extra oomph in the flavor department.
3 Ways to Spice Up Rice: Watch the Video
1. Toast the grains.
Toasting the dry rice grains in a little butter or olive oil before adding the water brings out their flavor and adds a fantastic nutty note in the finished dish. I especially love doing this with brown rice and other whole grains like farro and barley.
2. Cook the rice with chicken or vegetable broth.
This one's a no-brainer, assuming that you have some extra stock handy! If not, I'll add a dab of chicken or vegetable bouillon. I sometimes find that using 100% chicken broth can make the rice feel gummy or overly-starchy — personally, I usually go for a 50/50 mix of broth and water. This adds a layer of flavor and richness without going overboard.
3. Season the rice with what you're cooking.
Any aromatic herb or vegetable goes a long way toward adding a bit of intrigue to a simple pot of rice. Very often, some of the same seasonings going into the main dish are great for the rice as well. I've found that whole spices are usually better for adding subtle flavors, while ground spices are great when we really want the rice to stand out on its own.
I almost always add a bay leaf, no matter what I'm cooking for the main dish. Bay adds a slight woodsy-herbal flavor that compliments the flavors in a curry just as equally as a plate of roasted vegetables. Other flavors get added based on what I'm cooking. Cardamom and coriander seeds work well when the rice is accompanying an Indian or South-East Asian dish. If I have it, I'll also add a nub of lemon grass or ginger. A square of kombu in the cooking rice is a nice touch for Chinese and Japanese dishes, while cumin seeds and even cinnamon can go with Southwestern and Mexican foods. And then dried herbs like thyme and oregano are great when Italian or French is on the menu.
What other ways do you fancy-up your weeknight rice?
More Rice Tips & Tutorials
This post has been updated. Originally published November 5, 2011.
(Image: Emma Christensen)