You don’t need a rice cooker to make a great bowl of rice. You don’t even need a measuring cup. Chef JJ Johnson, of the acclaimed restaurant Henry at Life Hotel in New York City, has better idea. Just use your finger to determine how much water to use, he suggests.
Put rice in a sauce pot. Stick your middle finger into the rice and add water until it comes to right above the first indentation in your finger. Then cook it low and slow. That’s it.
This works best for long-grain rices—anything that calls for a 2:1 ratio of water to rice. Don’t use this trick for brown rice, which needs significantly more water (more like a 4:1 ratio).
Johnson also recommends using a wide pot. He likes cooking one quart of rice in a 10-quart sauce pot. Whatever quantities you use, the key is to make sure the pot isn’t overcrowded, otherwise the rice won’t cook evenly. Rice needs room to expand.
Johnson should know. He’s opening FieldTrip, a restaurant dedicated to rice, in Harlem this spring. (Look out for updates here.)
The menu will consist of five rice bowls, featuring rice sourced from all over the world. One menu item will be an American bowl, featuring crispy chicken with Carolina Gold rice, chestnuts, baby corn and a tamarind barbecue sauce. Another bowl will feature black fried rice with pineapple, edamame and a zesty tomato sauce. A third will showcase brown rice at its best—that is, when it’s cooked long enough, which can take up to an hour and a half. To source his grains, Johnson is working with Anson Mills and talking to rice farmers in such far-flung locales as upstate New York, Brazil and Trinidad.
“In Ghana, Israel, Singapore, India—rice is at the center of the table, it doesn’t matter where you are,” Johnson says. “And it really brings people together.”
Now, thanks to Johnson's rice-cooking advice, you have one less thing to worry about when you're bringing people together. Just remember one of our other favorite rice tips while you're at it: Cook a big batch to freeze for later use.
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