Monday, November 9, 2009

Rice with vermicelli

You know how Italian families grow up on pasta? I grew up on rice. And I could still eat rice every night of the week. I love it, in all its countless incarnations. But the rice I love best is this rice, the rice I'm going to show you how to make today. It's the rice my mother makes, the one she learned to make from her mother, who learned from her mother, and so on and so on.

Every once in a while I'll stumble upon this rice in a Greek restaurant or a Middle Eastern restaurant, and I'll think, yes, just like home. Because that's what this rice is to me: home.

There are a couple things you need to know up front. First of all, we're going to use butter. And if we were truly being authentic, we would use rendered butter, but honestly, I never have figured out how to actually do that. Second, (and this one is non-negotiable) we need to use Uncle Ben's Converted Rice. No wild rice or sushi rice or brown rice or Carolina rice. God forbid—no instant rice. Uncle Ben's Converted Rice in the orange box.

Here's what you need to make about 4 servings (after double-checking with my mom, we decided it would be important to add that this will make 4 small side-dish size servings. We all love rice so much, that honestly, if we were really going to have four adults sitting down to dinner, I'd double it.)
  • 2-3 tablespoons of butter
  • @ a handful of thin vermicelli noodles
  • 1 cup of Uncle Ben's Converted rice
  • 2 cups of VERY hot water (the ratio is always 2 cups of liquid for every 1 cup of rice; so if you want to double the recipe, you would need 4 cups of water, 2 cups of rice)
  • salt
Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan.

Add the vermicelli. If you are using coiled vermicelli, break it apart so it looks like this:

Brown the vermicelli, stirring often. When the color is good, add the rice and stir everything around.

You want the rice coated in the butter. Now add the hot water. Add the water slowly, it's going to sizzle and spit because the pan is hot and the water is hot, so stand back a bit and watch the steam. Add some salt. Be generous. It won't hurt you.

Bring the liquid to a bowl and cover the pan. Simmer for about 20 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed.

Now, this is important: Do NOT stir. Do NOT peek. Put the lid on the pan, turn the heat down to simmer and walk away. Set a timer, or watch the clock. When the liquid is gone, the rice is done.

If you want to add a little Middle Eastern flavor, sprinkle some cinnamon on top before you serve it.

I think this rice is delicious plain, but there are so many ways you can vary the recipe. You can certainly use chicken broth instead of water; you can add slivered almonds or toasted pine nuts or golden raisins, or top it with a bit of Greek yogurt or lebne. And it's a great accompaniment to everything from shish kebab to fish. It's a real favorite in our house.

How do you make rice? (On top of the stove? Rice cooker? Microwave?) What's your foolproof method?


  1. Yum. Now I know how it's done. But I have a feeling I'd still peek. Sigh.

  2. Yes, absolutely just like home - particularly for a Lebanese family! :)

  3. Yum.

    Okay, here's my idiot-proof, always perfect rice recipe:

    Butter a dish (pyrex, whatever)
    double the amount of liquid (i.e. 1 cup rice to 2 cups liquid, 2 cups rice to 4 cups liquid)
    1 tsp. salt

    Combine the above in the buttered dish. Cover. Bake at 325 for 1 hour and 15 minutes. You can use water, broth, etc for the liquid.

    it never fails.

  4. This is how I often make rice, too, Kristen! Except we call it rice pilaf. And I use jasmine rice (which isn't as good as Uncle Ben's in THIS case, you're absolutely right). In fact, I made it last night...and I'm having it, topped with the lentil and apple recipe I made (as a side dish for dinner) as lunch today. YUM.

  5. ok...if you don't peek how do you know the water is gone??

  6. Paula, sounds like we may have grown up in similar homes.

    kris, after 20min, you can peek. You just want to keep all that lovely steam inside the pan.

  7. I am so going to try this. Sounds and looks delicious!

  8. This sounds great! I never make rice because I seem to always end with a sticky mess, so I plan on trying your method.

  9. Kristen I made this tonight and it's great! We liked it. Such a nice change from plain rice or plain pasta! Great recipe. So glad to have learned something new!!

  10. Swoon...
    I would love this.
    Foster would love this.
    But the mess when my kids eat rice! OMG! It sticks to everything. I wonder if any of it actually makes it into their bellies. But this - wow. Yum!