Don’t Pitch that Browned Rice

I’ll be the first to admit it:  I’ve “browned” a lot of rice.  In this case, “browning” is not like “browning chicken breasts until golden,” or “toasting nuts until brown and fragrant.”  No, browning rice means I forgot about the rice simmering on the stove so the stuff just kept simmering until a thick brown, hard crust formed on the bottom.

Fortunately, that brown crust emits a pretty fragrant smell, so I usually catch the rice before it burns completely, at which point the whole batch would have to be pitched.  As long as it’s only brown on the bottom, even a serious brown, the rice on top is fine.  Just scrape it off and enjoy.

As for the crust of hard browned rice on the bottom, I used to pitch it.  Until now.  Quite by accident (the way a lot of good cooking secrets are uncovered), I found a delicious use for it:  After scooping away the good rice from yet another browned batch, I poured in a cup or two of water to help loosen the bottom crust.  Since I forgot to turn off the burner, the mixture continued cooking.  Lo and behold, when I checked back in a few minutes, the hard browned rice had fluffed up and the intense browned flavor had been diluted and evenly dissipated by the water.  Always game for a new flavor, I tried a bite and it was quite good!  So the whole batch got thrown into a pot vegetable soup for an interesting flavor enhancer.

Yesterday, I went one step further.  Faced with yet another hard brown rice crust, I simmered it in a couple cups of chicken broth instead of just plain water.  Then I added diced kohlrabi stems and, after they had simmered a bit, chopped kohlrabi greens.  Salt and pepper were the only seasonings necessary for a delicious lunchtime soup.  Apparently, browned rice has a lot of flavor.

Here’s an even better ending to the story:  You’ve heard of self-cleaning ovens.  Cooking browned-on rice self-cleans your rice pan.  Just be sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the pan as the soup boils–which you’ll want to do anyway to scrape in all that flavor.

Of course, I’m just waiting for the comment from some clever reader who never browns (or burns) her rice because she uses a rice cooker.  Go ahead and advise me that I need to get a rice cooker–but you’ll never get to taste Browned Rice Soup!

(P.S. for kohlrabi, you can substitute the stems and leaves of any green, like kale, chard, collards, beets or even just spinach; just adjust the cooking time up or down depending upon the tenderness or toughness of your greens.)

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