Simple Yellow Jasmine Rice & Peas

This month's Cookalong menu is assorted Caribbean dishes, and though late to the game due to a combination of busy-ness and fatigue, I did actually manage to get around to making some Jerk Chicken last night with the hope that I'll be able to make at least another main dish from the selections before the month is out.

Rice and Peas was a natural choice for a starch accompaniment, and since Jasmine is the default rice in our kitchen, Jasmine Rice and Peas it was. And though it's often made with some kind of red bean or pigeon peas, we had black beans in the cupboard, so I used those.

Also, though turmeric is not a typical ingredient as far as I know, it adds an appealing natural yellow color, a barely detectable flavor in small quantities, and has great health benefits, so I often add turmeric to flavored rice dishes.

Many Rice and Peas recipes include thyme, a Scotch Bonnet or Habanero chili, and sometimes even a little bit of allspice. Which makes for a delicious standalone rice dish.

But while I adapt and meld all kinds of food concepts, flavor profiles, techniques and processes from all over in my cooking, when rice accompanies spicy, complex flavors, I default to the generally Asian thinking that rice should be a simple canvas to foil and complement those flavors.

And that's not because I'm Asian. I've permanently adapted lots of non-Asian techniques and food ideas into my Asian cooking simply because I think they produce a better result.

In the case of something as hot, spicy and complex in flavor as Jamaican Jerk Chicken, for me, the overall experience of the meal is enhanced by a simpler version of Rice and Peas with a mild savory note from a little onion and garlic, and the creamy offset to all that heat from a little bit of coconut milk.

If you disagree, it's easy enough to add those ingredients to this basic recipe.

As to the beans... Yes. I used canned. I've soaked beans many times in the past, mostly successfully. But beans are more occasional than staple in my kitchen, and as much as I cook from scratch, having to soak dry beans just isn't my thing at the moment. (I only mention that because I'm tired and touchy, and I know I won't react well to someone telling me I can soak dry beans like that's never occurred to me in 25 years of cooking. #iamthatbitch today. ;) )

Simple Jasmine Rice & Peas
Serves 6
Time: About 45 minutes

- 1 Tablespoon butter + 1 Tablespoon oil
- 1/2 a medium onion, minced
- 1 Tablespoon minced garlic (about 2 large cloves)
- 2 cups Jasmine rice
- 1 cup coconut milk (remember to shake it well in the can so all the solids incorporate with the liquid)
- 2.5 to 2+2/3 cup unsalted chicken or vegetable stock (depending on how dry/wet you like your rice)
- 1 to 1.5 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 (15 oz.) can beans of choice rinsed and well drained (don't get the unsalted for this recipe)

- optional: 2 sprigs thyme, 1 Scotch Bonnet or Habanero chili (pierced in several spots if you like heat), 1/2 teaspoon allspice

1) In a pot or large saucepan, melt the butter with the oil over a medium heat then add onion and garlic and sweat until the onions are translucent - maybe 3 to 4 minutes. Add the turmeric to the onions and garlic and stir to combine. (If you're going to add the optional flavorings, this would be the time.)

2) Add the rice to the mixture and stir to combine. Toast the rice for 4 or 5 minutes in the pot, stirring occasionally to redistribute the grains on the top to the surface of the pan. You'll see the grains begin to turn opaque from the toasting. This process not only gives the rice a toastier flavor, but it also helps the individual grains retain their shape and texture.

3) Add the coconut milk and stock and stir to incorporate the liquid throughout the rice. Bring the heat up to medium high and bring to a gentle boil for about 2 minutes.

Gently boiling...

4) At that point, bring the heat down to just slightly higher than low and cover, lid slightly askew, until almost all the liquid is absorbed by the rice, and only the slightest bit of moisture is showing on the top.

5) Pour the beans in an even layer over the top, put the lid back on slightly askew, and continue to steam the rice until 5 minutes after all of the liquid has been absorbed.

6) Turn off the heat and let the rice sit for 5 to 10 minutes (and not much more) before fluffing the rice with a broad spoon or spatula while incorporating the beans as evenly as you can into it.

And enjoy alongside some finger lickin' Jerk Chicken or some hearty and delicious oxtail stew.

Back (hopefully) tomorrow with my Tandoori-Inspired Jamaican Jerk Chicken recipe!


Update: My Tandoori-Inspired Jamaican Jerk Chicken recipe HERE.



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