Rice is (not) Rice

Rice is rice…..right?

For such a staple ingredient, it was many, many years that I held that assumption. Sure, brown rice was brown and maybe a little healthier. Wild rice was a bit different, but all those “white rice varieties” such as jasmine, arborio, basmati, etc… were all really the same. Or so I thought. It was really only a few years ago that I came out of my white rice husk and opened my eyes.

I had never made risotto before and having had it numerous times at restaurants, wanted to re-create the creamy, flavorful dish. So I pulled up a recipe and while I saw it called for arborio rice, I knew that my long grained white rice would do the trick. I filed the recipe and made the risotto and while the rice fluffed up, it wasn’t creamy. The flavors were mostly there but it just didn’t seem like the risotto I’d had before.

A month or two later I decided to try again. After finding no rice in my pantry, I went to the store and decided to buy the rice variety that was called for. Knowing it was just some kind of scam to make rice seem fancy, I went for it anyway.

The arborio rice was short and fat compared to the long thin grains of rice I was used to dealing with. I followed the same recipe and something wondrous occurred – it was creamy. Luscious, even. I know the only change was the rice, so I looked into it a bit more and found how wrong I had been.

A little rice primer (the whole story is at the Huffington Post)

  • White rice – A good rice to serve as a side. It can be short, medium or long grained. It fluffs up and if cooked properly does not stick together. It generally does not have much of a taste on its own.
  • Basmati – Long grained rice that has a nutty flavor and sweet aroma. It pairs well with strong flavored dishes like curry.
  • Brown rice – More chewy than its white cousin, it has a nutty flavor and is rumored to be more healthy for you.
  • Jasmine – This rice sticks together well and has a floral aroma.
  • Arborio (also Carnaroli and Vialone Nano) – This is the risotto rice. It releases much more starch during a slow cooking process (where liquid is added over time) which gives it the creamy texture.
  • Sushi rice – A very sticky white rice.
  • Wild rice – Not really rice at all, it is a grain related to grass. It pairs well with rice due to its size and difference in texture (which does not fluff up).

As there are thousands of rice types I did not endeavor to mention all of them, just the more common ones in my neighborhood.

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This mushroom risotto was savory, creamy and both perfect and perfectly easy!

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I have to admit I cheated a bit, but one that I wholly recommend.

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I used Rice Select’s new Arborio Blend with Mushrooms. It has the right risotto rice and also includes some dehydrated mushrooms and onions to bring additional flavor. I could have just stopped with the rice (and water/stock, butter, parmesan) but I decided to go big.

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First you cook the rice. Unlike many risotto recipes, you don’t need to add the liquid as you go, just at the beginning. It is a quick and easy risotto. This is my cheat.

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As part of my going big, I sautéed some onions until they were just starting to turn translucent. That way the caramelization process had started and the sweet flavor really came out. It was about 6 minutes.

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I bought a blend of mushrooms from my local grocer. I added them to the onions and continued to sauté for another 4 minutes. At the end I added about ¼ cup of dry vermouth (you can use dry white wine) to deglaze the pan. Once it mostly bubbles off, remove it all from the pan.

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Here is my onion and mushroom blend. You add it to the cooked rice, added butter and a little parmesan (1 tablespoon).

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Delicious and soooo easy.

Going Big Mushroom Risotto

Serves 4

1 cup Rice Select Arborio Blend with Mushrroms

3 cup chicken or vegetable broth

1 tsp butter or oil

1 tbls grated parmesan cheese

1 tsp oil

6-8oz fresh mushrooms (blend), sliced into 1″ or smaller pieces

½ onion, chopped

¼ cup dry vermouth or white wine



Cook rice according to directions.

Saute onion in oil over medium heat until translucent, add mushrooms and cook for 4 additional minutes.

Add vermouth to pan to deglaze and once most of the liquid has boiled off, remove from heat.

Add mushroom blend to rice, add butter and cheese and store. Serve.

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Categories: Alcohol, Cheese3, Italian, kosher, Recipes, Sidedish2, vegan, Vegetable4, Vegetarian, Wine

Author:The Ranting Chef

Check out the best recipes at rantingchef.com

5 Comments on “Rice is (not) Rice”

  1. April 13, 2014 at 3:05 pm #

    Yep – rice is not rice! I have 6 or 7 varieties at any given time, always including Jasmine, Basmati, sticky rice, wild rice and whole grain. A lot of people seem to think that Jasmine (also known as “Perfumed Rice”) is just that – artificially perfumed; it’s not – it takes on the attributes from the soils in which it grows (mainly, if not exclusively, Asia) and converts them to that wonderful result. I actually made Mushroom Risotto last week – and your recipe looks very similar to the Italian recipe I followed! The only difference (it is from Italy, after all) was that there was no broth, and a lot more white wine! 🙂


  2. April 13, 2014 at 7:30 pm #

    Nice post. Coming from a rice eating country, we cannot live without it. Rice is used in many recipes. Not just sides. We have porridge, sweets mainly rice cakes of different kinds and textures, as ingredient in soup, and a whole lot more.


  3. Lori M.
    April 14, 2014 at 10:11 am #

    Thanks for the lesson on rice, very helpful, I always thought risotto had cream in it to make it so creamy. Can’t wait to try this.


  4. April 15, 2014 at 3:51 am #

    So many rices, so little time. My local food coop has over a dozen different kinds of rice: pink rice, red rice. All kinds of exotic rices. I have just started exploring them. They all seem to have unique flavors and properties. My staples have been Basmati and Jasmine. I don’t think I’ve made the old long grain in a decade.

    BTW, have you tried making risotto with other grains like barley or farro? That is on my list of projects to try.


  5. April 15, 2014 at 8:31 am #

    Thank you for the information on the different types of rice.


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