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The Daily Grain: How to Cook and Freeze Rice

I'm extremely thrilled about the upcoming publication of my book, "Man with a Pan: Culinary Adventures of Fathers who Cook for their Families," the cover of which I displayed here yesterday, but life as the Stay at Stove Dad isn't just about such enjoyable accomplishments. More often, it's about basic things, like cooking rice.

I've written before about the virtues of putting a pot of water on to boil the minute one comes home from work in the evening. But lately, I've been waking and boiling water for rice. The ancient staple is useful for so many dishes, from black beans and dhal to chicken tikka masala and the new, African-spiced chicken and lentil stew I made the other night.

Shortly, I'll share the recipe for the stew. Like the dish itself, anything I have to say about it will benefit from a day or two of sitting. In the meantime, I'll talk about how I cook rice, and how to freeze it.

Cooking rice is as simple or complicated as you make it. The way I do it probably won't win any awards, but it satisfies me: One part rice to two parts water; cover and bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. If I feel like it, I throw a bay leaf or two in the boiling water. If it's my usual brown basmati, it will take about forty-five minutes total. White rice can be done in as little as fifteen minutes.

The rice will last in the refrigerator for a few days. When I want to use it, I warm it, either in the microwave for a few seconds, or, covered, in a cast-iron frying pan. When I use a frying pan, I put the heat on high for a few minutes, then give it a stir, and turn out the flame. The residual energy in the pan is usually sufficient to warm it perfectly.

If the leftovers linger for more than a few days (double check with a quick smell, and err on the side of caution when it comes to using old rice), I pack up small portions of it in sandwich or quart-sized Ziploc bags. I squeeze all the air out of the bags, seal the top, and then spread the rice out in the bag so it is thin and flat. These stack nicely for freezing, and can be defrosted much the same way as the fresh rice.

Give the frozen layer of rice a good whack with a spatula or other implement. It will crumble and defrost faster, giving you more time for other things, such as reading (or writing) a book.

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