THE WASHINGTON POST – The Washington Post food staff recently answered questions about all things edible. Here are edited excerpts from that chat.
Q: When cooking basmati rice, do you always rinse it before cooking? I typically don’t, just adding enough water or stock to be fully absorbed by the time the rice is ready. Most often I’m using it as part of a main course with vegetables, a protein and some sort of sauce. I recently came across some recipes that called for rinsing basmati five to seven times before cooking. And if I should be rinsing, is it the same with brown rice and jasmine?
A: I always, always rinse basmati. It draws out excess starch so your end result is fluffy with separate grains. I’m sure there are some types of rice that don’t need rinsing, but for the most part you do want to rinse your rice before you cook it. Soaking helps grains cook more evenly and can help your rice be more fluffy. Also, if you’re not into the “swirl water in the pot and drain” method of rinsing, use a fine-mesh colander and rinse under cold water.
Q: On a whim, I bought a 4.5-ounce jar of nutritional yeast. Now what? What would be the absolute best way for me to try/use it?
A: Ellie Krieger wrote in a 2019 column, “Use nutritional yeast whenever you want a hint of cheese flavour in a dairy-free way, adding it to taste the way you might add Parmesan cheese to a dish. It is delicious when sprinkled on warm popcorn, in risotto or on pasta dishes, in mashed potatoes, on cauliflower, and to make vegan mac-and-’cheese’. You can stir it into creamy soups, add it to an egg or tofu scramble, or sprinkle it onto toasted garlic bread. It also makes for a delicious dairy-free dressing similar to Caesar.”
Q: What are the middles of filled candies filled with when it’s not ganache? I’m thinking of the lemon creams that come in assortments.
A: Lemon creams and others with creme centres are made of soft fondant, a type of sugar filling that’s stabilised with invert sugar – which does not crystalise – sometimes egg whites in addition to flavorings. You can make it at home, but you might need to buy some specific candy-making ingredients, which you can order online.
Q: Years ago, I heard the temperature of a roux should be the opposite of the liquid that you are adding. Add hot liquid to cool roux. Add cold liquid to warm roux. Is there any truth/science attached to this?
A: People take passionate stands on this issue. They will swear by their methods.
Here’s what I do and why: I prefer warmed/hot liquid because I find that the hot roux retains its colour (important in dishes such as gumbo) and that the roux blends more easily into warmed liquid.
With butter rouxs, I especially like both to be warm to prevent the butter from seizing up a bit.
All of that said: As long as you stir/whisk immediately over at least a medium-low heat, until it is well combined, you can do it either way. (If I’m making a small creamy sauce, I’ve been known to throw in cold cream or milk and just whisk vigorously.)