It was only a few months ago that I acquired my first rice cooker. Up then, my thinking went something like this: "Why bother with another appliance to take up space on my counter if I can cook rice one the stove?" But even though I make rice on a fairly regular basis, the results were wildly inconsistent. Embarrassingly, it was a skill that I had never mastered, hence the rice cooker purchase. After that first perfect batch of cooked rice, I was an instant convert, and now I'm kicking myself for not getting one sooner. And so, as a newcomer to the world of rice cooker cookery I was thrilled to get my hands on a copy of Roger Ebert's new cookbook, The Pot and How to Use It.
This Soy Rice and Chicken recipe was submitted to Ebert's blog by a commenter in Taiwan. It's a spin on a family favorite—bits of chicken mixed with flavorful rice infused with ginger, onions, shiitakes, and plenty of soy sauce. Like all of the recipes in The Pot and How to Use It, it's simple to prepare, basically just a matter of sautéing the chicken, mixing it with other ingredients, and pressing the "cook" button on your rice cooker.
I must admit, I was concerned about the salt factor—a little under 3/4 cup is way more than I've ever dared to cook with. But once the timer on my rice cooker beeped and the dish was done, the level of seasoning was just right, not nearly the soy overload that I had feared.
The key here is to avoid the supermarket standard (Kikkoman) in favor of a lighter soy, which will leave you with a plate of chicken rice that has wonderful soy flavor without all of the saltiness. Served with some briefly sautéed greens (you can throw them into the rice cooker for the last five minutes of cooking) this was one of the more simple and satisfying plates I've made this fall. And thanks to the rice cooker, every grain of rice was tender and evenly cooked, something that would have never happened if I cooked this on the stovetop.
As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of The Pot and How to Use It to give away this week.
- 1/2 cup Japanese sushi rice
- Handful of dried shiitake mushrooms, the small variety (if large, cut into strips)
- 3/4 (rice cooker measuring) cup soy sauce
- 4 tablespoons oil, divided
- 1 thin slice of gingerroot, cut into thin strips
- Handful of chopped, nibble-sized chicken pieces, preferably deboned thighs
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 3 1/2 cups regular rice
- 2 garlic cloves, squashed
- 1/2 white onion, sliced into half-rings
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 4 1/2 (rice cooker measuring) cups water
Wash the sushi rice and soak thoroughly in water for half an hour. Put aside.
Soak the dried shiitake mushrooms in 3/4 cup soy sauce. Put aside (soak until soft).
In a nonstick pan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil, then sauté the ginger. Quickly add in the chicken pieces with 2 tablespoons of soy sauce (to give the chicken color). Stir-fry until the chicken is cooked. Set aside on a plate and let cool thoroughly; this is important.
Drain the sushi rice of water. Wash the ordinary rice clean and drain of water, too. Remember to drain both rices well.
Using your hand, squeeze the shiitake mushrooms of soy sauce, but mind that you do not waste the soy sauce because it will be used afterward.
In the same nonstick pan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil. Sauté the garlic, the the onion, and then the mushrooms.
Put in all the rice, the sushi and the regular, and also the 3 tablespoons of soy sauce. Stir-fry until the rice is evenly coated with oil and soy. Don’t take too long in stir-frying the rice (less than a minute).
Pour the rice mixture and the chicken into the rice cooker. Pour in 4 1/2 (rice cooker measuring) cups of water. Also pour in the soy sauce that you used to soak the dried shiitake mushrooms.
Add a dash of salt (only a teeny bit).
Let stand to cool for about 5 minutes or more, all the while stirring to dissipate the heat. Dissipating the heat is important so as not to mess with the gauging system of your cooker.
After cooling, begin to cook the usual way in your rice cooker.