I have a confession: I have a rice cooker. This might not seem worth confessing to many of you. In fact, you might have read “I have a confession” and been titillated and read on, expecting me to divulge a secret-secret, like the fact that I wear a thick retainer when I sleep and it gives me (what I maintain is) an adorable lisp, or that I listen to Harry Potter audiobooks when I run errands, even though I’m 28 years old. (Both totally true.)
But actually, I’m just a chronic purger and I am really judgey of anyone who has too many things. I am always making a pile of crap to give away, and I turn my nose up at stuff I think is, almost by definition, superfluous — for example, single-use kitchen gadgets.
I do not own a panini press. My kitchen counter is not cluttered with a wafflemaker. I consider both silly and unnecessary, given that a sandwich grilled in a cast iron pan and homemade pancakes are perfectly adequate substitutes. If you want to get dorky about it, the marginal benefits of paninis and waffles over grilled sandwiches and pancakes do not even begin to approach the marginal cost of the bulky, expensive gadgets that take up tons of space and require extra time and effort to make and keep clean. I turn my nose up, and I keep it up.
And yet, I own a rice cooker. And I use my rice cooker all the time. The fact is, rice is easily both under- and over-cooked, and pretty disgusting either way. Also, I didn’t buy my rice cooker. I think one of my many roommates over the years bought it and moved out without taking it. Either that, or it was a gift from on high. And it never quite made it into my perpetual giveaway pile because it’s so dang useful.
This dish is a perfect example of a great time to use the rice cooker. There are a lot of things going on here. You’ve got your beef, which has to be sauteed with jalapenos and garlic. And your carrots, that need to be shredded and tossed with scallions and basil. The egg must be fried, and must be fried perfectly, so that the white is cooked all the way through, but the yolk is still bright yellow and runny. And then the dressing — which might seem unnecessary given everything else going on, but is really spectacular and brings the whole thing together. And then you also have the rice, which would be a pain, if it wasn’t bubbling away and taking care of itself in a handy little rice cooker off to the side. When it’s done, it pops to warm and hangs out until everything else is ready. And then when you bring it all together — a scoop of rice, a big spoonful of beef, a drizzle of tangy fish sauce dressing, a runny fried egg, topped with a smear of sriracha, if you can handle it — is perfect, and totally worth the juggle.
To read more about my rice cooker, and all the other kitchen gadgets and do-dads I love, check out my newly updated Leighto-Greato Recommends… page. Everything from knives to mini rubber spatulas, from rice cookers to slow cookers, for anyone interested in treating themselves on this lovely (almost summer) Friday. Enjoy!
Flashback! One year ago on Leighto-Greato: Bacon Tacos with Charred Corn and Avocado
- 1 c. white rice
- 1 can lite coconut milk
- 3½ T. vegetable oil
- 1 shallot, sliced thin
- 6 cloves garlic, sliced thin
- 2 serrano peppers, sliced thin
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 1 package basil leaves (about 2 cups, torn by hand into small pieces)
- 4 carrots
- 2 scallions
- Juice from 2 limes
- 2 T. soy sauce
- 1 T. fish sauce
- 1 t. sugar
- Salt and pepper
- 4 eggs
- In a rice cooker (or on the stove), cook white rice according to package instructions, substituting lite coconut milk for water. (When I did this, I used a can of coconut milk and needed about ½ cup of water, but just follow your package instructions, and don't forget to season with salt before cooking!)
- Slice the shallot, garlic and serranos really thin.
- Heat 2 T. vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots until they are lightly browned and fragrant, then garlic and serranos for another minute or two, until you an smell all three at once.
- Add the ground beef, and brown well. This means letting it sit for a while before breaking up the pieces -- if it's moving, it's not browning. Cover and keep warm until ready to serve.
- Just before serving, stir in half of the basil and wilt over medium heat until the beef is warmed through.
- Slice scallions (all of 'em -- both the green and the white parts) into thin rounds.
- Using a vegetable peeler, peel the carrots into thin, long strips.
- In a large bowl, toss the scallion rounds and carrot shreds with half the basil, 1 T. vegetable oil and the juice from 1 lime. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, mix juice from 1 lime, soy sauce, fish sauce, and sugar. Shake until well combined.
- Heat ½ T. vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Fry eggs over-easy (so their yolks are still runny) and set aside until ready to serve.
- Layer rice, then beef, a drizzle of dressing, a large pinch of carrot salad, and a fried egg.