Not Martha

on cooking stuff to freeze

In my annual effort to eat food made at home more often, I’ve started making large batches and freezing it into portions. I’ve learned a few new things, including that I need a larger pot.

So far I’ve made bolognese and Susie’s Green Curry with chicken (which have both become standards here), and I’ve frozen them into flat zip top freezer bags, a tip from the Jan/Feb 2008 Everyday Food magazine. I also heard this tip ages ago on The Splendid Table by, I think, regular guest Sally Schneider. Last year I froze things into disposable continers, or sauce in individual muffin cups, but that still took a while to unfreeze (we are microwave-less). The flat bags store pretty efficiently in the freezer, and to thaw enough to get them back out of the bag you run them under a hot tap.

The other week I was listening to The Splendid Table and she gave a caller this tip: cook rice the way you would cook pasta. Apparently it comes out just as well, and cooks a bit faster. Last night I made a whopping amount of green curry but forgot about the rice, Lundberg Brown Basmati, so I boiled it. It turned out pretty well. I have a history of rice making trouble. Anyhow ever heard of boiling rice like pasta? What little Googling I did turned up a few suggestions, and one that finished by putting the still wet rice back into the pot and letting it steam for a few minutes before serving.

My favorite pasta to put the bolognese on remains the chiocciole (snail) from Bionaturae, they are nice and big. And I’m glad to know I can buy these on Amazon since I suspect they are going to disappear from my small local market at any moment now.

They look freaked out, don’t they?

· comments [44] · 01-25-2008 · categories:food · recipes ·

44 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Nia // Jan 25, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    Williams-Sonoma had this crazy contraption called a rice ball, it looked like a gigantic tea-ball but you filled it with rice and put into a pot of water. Cooking rice like pasta seems so much less complicated.

  • 2 Kate // Jan 25, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    Cooking brown rice like pasta works really well. I put it in a pot of boiling water with a little salt for 20-30 minutes-until the rice is tender.

  • 3 mamacita // Jan 25, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    You’re not the only one who has trouble cooking rice. I’ve never had it turn out correctly, not even once, in all my years of cooking. I had wondered before why you can’t just cook it like pasta. I think I’ll give that a try next time. I had been reduced to buying frozen, pre-cooked rice, which works okay but is way more expensive than buying plain rice.

  • 4 mamacita // Jan 25, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    Speaking of freezer recipes — you should try Smitten Kitchen’s French Onion Soup. It works great in the freezer.

  • 5 Lisa // Jan 25, 2008 at 3:39 pm

    My trusty Fanny Farmer cookbook includes an option for boiling rice like pasta. I haven’t tried it but Fanny hasn’t steered me wrong yet.

  • 6 jamaila // Jan 25, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    I’m all about the make-ahead and freeze thing. I just posted about my make-my-life-easier chicken, which is awesome for freezing. The only thing stopping me from making great quantities of frozen food is lack of a separate freezer, something which I hope will be remedied this year. There’s a restaurant supply store just up the street from us, I’m looking forward to browsing there for portioning and storage options.

  • 7 Kellie // Jan 25, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    One of our favorite meals at our house is bolognese with Bionaturae chiocciole! The whole wheat is my favorite, but our grocery store doesn’t carry it anymore. I never thought to look on Amazon though. Thanks for the tip!

  • 8 miss dreadful // Jan 25, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    I’m a big fan of Alton Brown’s baked rice. I’ve made it several times, and it’s always turned out great, and the clean up is a snap.

  • 9 Allison // Jan 25, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    I learned how to cook jasmine rice from Seductions of Rice and now it turns out perfectly every time. Other types of rice will require different timing and water quantity, so use this just for jasmine rice.

    1.5 c rice
    1.75 c water

    Put rice and water in pot and bring to a boil. Cover and turn down to low (but high enough that it will simmer with the lid on). Simmer for 15 minutes. Do NOT take off the lid. Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes with the lid on. Then take lid off and fluff.

  • 10 megan // Jan 25, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    Oooh, thanks for all the tips everybody!

    Kellie – Amazon has the whole wheat chiocciole as well, you have to buy six bags at a time but if you know you’re going to use it eventually I think it works out cheaper.

  • 11 Oromin // Jan 25, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    You should submit that pasta picture to Faces in Places!

  • 12 paola // Jan 25, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    My mother (who was Italian so it figures) always used to cook rice like pasta.

    I use a method very similar to Alison’s above (which makes for a fluffier rice than pasta cooked rice IMO). The main difference is that I watched some programme that said that in Thailand they put their rice in a pan and then cover with water until it is the depth of your knuckle above the rice (in reality about 1/2 inch). So that way you can cook any quantity you want.

    Then use the method that Alison outlines above of bringing to the boil and then simmering with the lid on until cooked, depending on the type of rice. If you let it simmer for about 15 minutes with the lid on you can then take the lid off to test it (though try not to do this too much). Once or twice I’ve had to add a tablespoon or so of water at this stage if the rice is still hard, but the water has been absorbed.

    But basically simmer until the water is absorbed and the rice is cooked, then turn it off and let it steam which is what fluffs it up.

    This works for every type of rice. You can also add other liquids, such as chicken broth, canned chopped tomatoes or wine, which also get absorbed.

  • 13 megan // Jan 25, 2008 at 4:31 pm

    Oromin – I’m afraid they’ve already got one of chiocciole.

    Paola – Thanks for all the details!

  • 14 V // Jan 25, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    I use a pasta that looks like the one you like- it’s Pipette by Barilla. I don’t know if they’re the same size as the ones you use though, but I just thought I’d pass the info on to you just in case your store runs out of the brand you like.

  • 15 Megan // Jan 25, 2008 at 4:54 pm

    I’ve been freezing stuff in meal-size aliquots in ziploc bags for years, but I never seem to have enough freezer space to make them lay flat! As a result, I end up with lumpy, often stuck together (or worse: sagged down through the wire freezer shelf and frozen in place) food bags. I’ve lately been feeling guilty about all the ziploc bags I go through in this manner, and was considering switching to reusable containers. But the convenience is soooo, well, convenient.

  • 16 megan // Jan 25, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    Megan – I put mine into the freezer to get them to freeze flat initially, once they’re solid I can stack them in the back. Of course, this means I have to make room for a cookie sheet for a while, it’s usually perched on top of everything.

    V – Thanks! I saw those yesterday and they are much smaller but a similar shape.

  • 17 swankette // Jan 25, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    My Mom always boiled the rice growing up, until she was introduced to the rice cooker. She said she was incapable of cooking rice the regular way, and boiling it worked just fine.

    Personally, I prefer doing it the traditional way, because then I can just get it going and ignore it.

  • 18 Andree // Jan 25, 2008 at 5:48 pm

    Here’s a tip for zip-lock freezing that seems like it should have been obvious…

    I put several big bags of meatballs in sauce in my grandmother’s freezer, one in the door shelf and one directly on a wire shelf. When they froze, the door shelf one pooched out at the bottom and was impossible to get out. The wire shelf one smooshed out between the wires and got stuck as well. Duh. We had to thaw with a hair dryer. I would put the bags on top of something else to prevent this.

    Also, if you suck at making rice, try parboiled rice – I don’t think it’s as good, but some people love it. It is IMPOSSIBLE to ruin. I follow the instructions on the bag, then forget to turn it down from a boil and it still works. I can make at least 5 cups at once this way with no problem. It’s not delicious, but it’s good for red beans and rice, or gumbo or things where the rice is under a lot of something else. It’s fool proof. For real rice, I have an awesome rice steamer – like a double boiler, but the top insert only has holes around the top edges, none on the bottom. If you find a pot like this, snatch it up. You put about two cups of rice with 2 1/2 cups of water (you can do less) plus the salt and a blob of butter in the top and a lot of water in the bottom, and the rice cooks by itself – you don’t have to stir or anything and if you leave it on too long, it’s still perfect.

    Sorry for the length! I’m Cuban and from New Orleans, we eat a LOT of rice.

  • 19 R.M. Koske // Jan 25, 2008 at 6:07 pm

    My mother cooked rice like pasta, down to draining it in a fine strainer at the end. I was in my teens before I found out that the reason so many people liked Minute Rice was because they didn’t do that and cooking it “the right way” is hard to nail.

    Now I’ve got a rice cooker, but I’d still be doing it that way if I didn’t.

  • 20 Anna // Jan 25, 2008 at 6:07 pm

    My husband boiled rice like pasta, and I never really liked “his rice.” We bought ourselves a rice cooker, and I would totally throw out the microwave in favor of the rice cooker. (You can steam veg in it too!)

  • 21 Rasa // Jan 25, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    I learned the rice-boiling technique from my Persian (Iranian) in-laws…the goal is the longest grain of un-exploded rice possible.

    Gently wash basmati rice (boy does the quality make a difference!) to remove surface starch, soak in salted water (the longer you soak the shorter you cook…so you could skip this step and boil more but boiling is more tramatic to the rice grain and it is more likely to break or look all ragged. Soaking up to overnight in the refrigerator or a few hours on the counter is optimal) then drain and place in a pot of HEAVILY salted boiling water. Boil rice a few minutes (not more than 5-6 usually), drain, and then back in the pot to steam.

    Usually there’s a step during the steaming process which will create a tag-deeg or purposefully golden and crunchy bottom layer, but you could skip just for the rice. I imagine just boiling the rice after the soaking would make pretty tasty rice too. I SWEAR my MIL uses enough salt to alter the turgor pressure of the rice grain…end product looks and feels great but may send you to the hospital from salt poisoning.

  • 22 Sarah // Jan 25, 2008 at 8:55 pm

    Have you tried frozen rice yet? Both Whole Foods and Trader Joes carry a frozen brown rice (sold in a bag) that is fantastic. 1 cup cooks in 90 seconds — you don’t even add water. Fool proof and nearly instant.

  • 23 Lulu // Jan 26, 2008 at 2:20 am

    Rice is an everyday staple at my house, and the only way I’ve ever seen it cooked is first rinsing the rice, then boiling equal parts rice and water until the rice is tender and the water is gone. If the water is gone and rice is still not cooked, just add more water. We tried getting a rice cooker once, but there would always be a layer of clumped, over cooked rice at the bottom. I guess that’s supposed to be normal, but it’s a huge amount of waste that drove my mom crazy.

  • 24 karen brown // Jan 26, 2008 at 3:46 am

    hi from new zealand.I’ve only occasionally tried to cook rice the “cover and simmer” way,and its never worked very well for me;gluggy rice and a pot that’s hell to clean.My usual method is to fill a large pot with salted water,bring to a rolling boil,throw in the rice,(which I sometimes remember to give a quick rinse under the cold water tap,but it honestly doesn’t seem to make a great difference) and boil till al dente.Just like pasta!Drain the rice into a colander,and if you need to keep it warm while you make a stirfry or something,put a inch or so of water in to the pot ,put it back on the burner with the colander sitting above,and the pot lid sitting over the rice,and let it steam.This not only keeps the rice warm,it help make the pot easier to clean!This method has worked for me for forty years,hope you’ll give it a try.Cheers from the bottom of the world,karen brown

  • 25 Jane // Jan 26, 2008 at 5:53 am

    I must be being incredibly stupid (or maybe it’s just because I’m English!) but I always cook rice ‘like pasta’ in as far as I cook it in a big pan of boiling water and drain it through a sieve when done. Most people I know do it the same way, too. How else would one cook it?!

  • 26 Sacha // Jan 26, 2008 at 9:06 am

    I had never heard of this method of cooking rice before I saw Jamie Oliver do it THIS MORNING — what a coincidence! I think I’ll just stick with my rice cooker, though.

  • 27 Marjorie // Jan 26, 2008 at 9:23 am

    We love the chiocciole in our house too and can usually find the wheat variety at our local MOM’s Market. My daughter loves this shape as she puts them on her fingers and calls them her “pasta puppets”.

  • 28 megan // Jan 26, 2008 at 9:50 am

    Jane – All the packages of rice here in the US have directions to add specific amounts of water and rice, boil, then cover, lower the temperature and simmer until all the water has been absorbed. When done correctly the rice is fluffy, but my rice usually turns out both underdone and burned on the bottom. Honestly, I’d never heard of boiling rice before. At least, not unprocessed rice, we have instant boil-in-a-bag varieties that aren’t very nutritious.

  • 29 Melissa A. // Jan 26, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    I do this as well. I’m planning to make at least 4 things this week, plus some baking as well. I like the idea of freezing things flat. I’ve been wanting to try that green curry, but I’ll have to put it on the list for next time.

  • 30 Chelsea // Jan 26, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    Barilla makes the same style of pasta but they call it pipette. It’s always available in our local grocery store, but it may just be a Midwest brand.

  • 31 Kelly // Jan 26, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    Hi Meg,
    I have to know what gives with no microwave? Is it a space thing or chemical radiation or something else I don’t know.. Please tell me soon. I’m just about to nuke some water for tea:)

  • 32 megan // Jan 26, 2008 at 5:36 pm

    Kelly – Purely a case of not having any space to put it in. Our kitchen is tiny.

  • 33 Kelly // Jan 26, 2008 at 10:30 pm

    Phew, I was worried. We have the tiny kitchen thing too. Space is a jaw-dropping comodity.

  • 34 MamaLana // Jan 27, 2008 at 7:55 pm

    Two cups water to one cup rice (long grain). Bring to a boil. Lower heat to lowest; cook covered for 15 minutes (no peeking). Turn off heat. Fluff and cover. Never fails.

  • 35 kirsty // Jan 28, 2008 at 3:27 am

    This way works best for me: 1 volume of dry rice in a pan and then add 1.5 volumes of *boiling* water; cover and leave on a very low heat for about 10 minutes until all the water has been absorbed, turn off the heat, fluff it up with a fork and leave for a couple of mins before serving.

    (Simply boiling a big pan of water and chucking the rice in is definitely the standard UK way to cook rice.)

  • 36 Tina // Jan 28, 2008 at 4:58 am

    #16 has a good idea, freezing the bags flat.
    I suggest when it’s time to defrost, place the bag in a pan of cool water and place in your fridge for a few hours, or the morning of. Works like a charm.

  • 37 Tara // Jan 28, 2008 at 7:49 am

    When I lived in Dublin in 1999, my housemates cooked rice like pasta. I thought it was some barbaric custom like leaving the butter out of the fridge so it was soft on demand. They thought my way was some crazy American thing.

  • 38 Jenn // Jan 28, 2008 at 8:05 pm

    Wow, I think my days of crappy rice have just officially ended. Boil it like pasta? Genius!!

  • 39 Emily // Jan 31, 2008 at 7:32 am

    I just learned about cooking rice like pasta too! I read about it in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, by Mark Bittman. So easy and clunk-on-the-head why didn’t I know about this sooner?! As for those bags of frozen rice at Whole Foods and such…. ugh! The stores should be ashamed. Freeze your own rice, and it’s just as convenient and way more inexpensive. And think of the resources saved – trucking those frozen bags of rice isn’t free! :-)
    And please don’t use heat on your ziploc bags. Heat imparts icky toxins from the plastic into the food. Put the bags in the fridge in the a.m. and they’ll be soft enough to empty in the p.m. to cook dinner. Yum.

  • 40 M // Feb 1, 2008 at 6:47 am

    In Seattle, you can buy Bionature pasta at WholeFoods as well as Ballard Market and Central Market.

  • 41 Spock's Girl // Feb 3, 2008 at 10:44 pm

    What’s that you’re cooking in the second picture? That looks really yummy!

  • 42 Emp // Feb 5, 2008 at 7:20 pm

    Hmm, 41 comments and no one has mentioned microwaving rice? 15 minutes for one cup dry rice…(can’t recall how much water I use the finger joint method). Just make sure to use at least a 4-8 cup container so it doesn’t mess up the microwave.
    Perfect everytime. For more than a cup at a time I prefer a rice steamer, never burns!

  • 43 megan // Feb 5, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    Emp – I myself don’t have a microwave so I didn’t specifically ask about it. Thanks for the how to!

  • 44 angela // Feb 8, 2008 at 11:08 am

    I was never a fan of Jamie Oliver, but I am really into his new show “Jamie At Home.” He boils his rice in the same manner as one would boil pasta then drains it into a colander, and before all the water has a chance to strain out, he plops the colander back into the pot and covers it so it can steam and stay fluffy.

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