~ Fluffy Lemon-Pepper Rice for Fish & Seafood ~
Back in high school, one of my favorite cafeteria meals was served every Friday: fish sticks with stewed tomatoes, white rice and peas. The entire meal went so well together, with each component complimenting all the others. I could never quite understand my classmates who chose the french fries option to go with their fish, stewed tomatoes and peas!
That said, my mom never bought a box of fish sticks and like her, I've never purchased a box of fish sticks either, not even when our boys were growing up. I will admit to buying frozen flounder fillets for them, which for reasons unknown to me they liked much better than fresh fillets... an ok compromise if you're a mom trying to please three children. Every once in a while I still have to satisfy my hunger for this memorable childhood meal. That being said, I have upscaled it just a bit: you'll find fresh fish or seafood on our plates now, along with the following version of rice, which I developed just for this delicious meal. Whenever possible, my stewed tomatoes are made from roasted, fresh tomatoes and my peas are freshly-picked from Joe's garden!
6 cups water, minus 6 tablespoons water
4 ounces (1 stick) salted butter, total butter throughout recipe
1 lemon, juice and zest
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
red pepper flakes, for garnish
~ Step 1. Always rinse your rice before cooking it. Do not soak it, rinse it, and keep the rice moving while you do. I simply place it in a colander and with cold tap water running through it, move the rice around with my fingertips until the water running out is clear. After that I let it sit in the sink while I bring my water to a boil.
~ Step 2. In a 4-quart stockpot, bring the water and 6 tablespoons of the butter to a boil over high heat. Gradually, but in a constant stream, add the rice to the boiling water. Adjust the heat to a gentle, steady simmer, stirring constantly. Cover the pot and continue to cook, until the rice is fully-cooked and has absorbed all of the liquid, 12-16 minutes. Do not uncover or stir.
~ Step 4. When the rice is cooked, remove the pot from the heat. Add and thoroughly stir all of the lemon juice, zest, the black pepper, sea salt and the 2 remaining tablespoons of butter into the rice. Cover and set aside, for about 5-10 minutes.
~ Step 5. Just prior to serving, "fluff" the rice with a fork. The term "fluff" means to use the prongs of a fork to carefully separate the cooked grains. I like to describe it as a "gentle raking motion" that breaks up any lumps without mashing the rice. It also releases steam and imparts volume to the rice.
The grains of rice will be plumped up, cooked al dente and slightly clinging to each other.
Transfer rice to a serving bowl and garnish with additional lemon zest.
Note: The same "fluffing" process is also used when preparing couscous, quinoa or bulgur. In the case of granita, the fork is also used to rake the ice crystals as they are forming, resulting in fluffy ice!
Peas add a lot of color and flavor to the rice, and compliment almost any broiled or baked white fish you're serving. Just add some stewed tomatoes and you've got a perfectly scrumptious meal that even your kids will enjoy!
Fluffy Lemon-Pepper Rice for Fish & Seafood: Recipe yields 6 cups of cooked rice, more if you add peas!
Specialty Equipment List: colander; 4-quart stockpot w/tight-fitting lid; spoon; microplane grater; fork
Cook's Note: Another one of my favorite ways to serve this rice is in my recipe for ~ Provencal Seafood Stew w/Lemon-Rice ~. You can read this recipe, along with all of my step-by-step instructions and photos by clicking into Categories 2, 11, 14 or 21!
"We are all in the food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)