Rice ‘N Cheese
Last year, I read about a method for making leftover rice pudding that used rice’s starchiness as a natural thickener, activated by a slow simmer with the liquid of your choice–coconut milk, half and half, whole milk, or a mix.
Immediately, I thought about how this might work as a savory rice pudding instead of a sweet one. Immediately after that, I had a feeling that I’d replace all the sugar with grated cheese. The result, which I’ve been making for lunches on days when there’s extra rice, tastes a lot like mac ‘n cheese but with rice instead of pasta.
With mac ‘n cheese, you have to add flour to the béchamel sauce. In most recipes, that’s what turns plain milk into a sauce that can insinuate itself into pasta shapes. But with this recipe, the rice releases enough starch into the milk that the dish thickens of its own accord. By the time 40 minutes are up, you’ll find your milk turned into a thick sauce. Stir in cheese, as much as you like, and whatever kind you like or have, and lunch is ready. A green salad is nice, but you can also one-bowl this and get your vegetable intake at another meal.
- 1 cup leftover cooked rice (I used short-grain brown; use whatever you have or like)
- 1½ cups whole milk
- 1 Parmesan rind (if you have one)
- A few sage leaves (or a little oregano, or a clove of garlic, or a pickled hot pepper)
- 2 peppercorns
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- ⅓ to ½ cup grated cheddar cheese
- In a small saucepan, combine the rice, milk, Parmesan, sage or other flavoring, peppercorns, and a few pinches of salt if the rice wasn't salted to begin with. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to super low and simmer, uncovered, for 40 minutes, stirring once in a while, until the milk is nearly completely absorbed. If you're in a hurry, you can turn the heat up, but then you'll want to stay by the stove and stir much more frequently.
- When the milk is almost completely absorbed--you just want a tiny bit of soupiness left, to act as a sauce--remove the pan from the heat, remove the peppercorns and other flavorings if you care, then stir in the cheddar and most of the Parmesan. Heap into a bowl and top with reserved Parmesan. You can eat one big portion or serve smaller amounts with a main. A big green salad is good on the side either way.