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I’ve always believed the first bite of every dish is the best bite. That’s why Andrew and I often skip the entrée at a restaurant and order appetizers and small plates only.
In fact, even when sharing an entrée, it’s a challenge for us to finish. It’s no wonder I’ve been enjoying the premiere season of Tony Bourdain’s show, The Taste … a show about hooking people in a bite.
During our 12 days in Japan, we ate lots of delicious food, much of which, like nigiri zushi (hand-formed sushi), is designed to be a bite or two. But I came across a dish that was so good that the first bite took my breath away, and it got better as I finished the very last grain in my bowl. It made me wonder how I would survive without knowing how to make it at home.
It didn’t hurt that we were also eating teppan-grilled steak and shrimp, and drinking ice-cold beer, but the standout was the garlic butter rice. The garlic was super finely minced, crispy and aromatic, the butter was steeped in the same garlic and the rice was masterfully cooked. And the little green canola blossom lent a floral note that softened the garlic.
This is the kind of preparation I imagine takes years to perfect … so be patient with yourself as you search the holy rice grail.
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Garlic Butter Rice
4 tablespoons butter
Garlic, start with two cloves finely minced and increase to taste
2 cups short grain rice
3-1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
Salt to taste
In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter and stir in the finely minced garlic. Stir constantly until it first softens, then becomes aromatic, then starts caramelizing to a golden brown. Immediately add the rice and continue stirring until the grains are coated with the garlicky butter. Add the broth, stir twice, and bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to simmering. Cover and cook over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes or until the broth is absorbed. Turn off the heat and let the rice sit for 10 minutes then fluff with a fork. Season to taste with salt before serving.
Note: I’ve never seen canola blossoms in a produce shop, but have started looking since I got home. A stem of steamed broccoli rabe spritzed with a little sushi vinegar will be the closest to this Japanese spring delicacy.
Makes 4 servings
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