Is there anything sexier than a perfectly fried egg? Is there anything more arousing than that shockingly orange and plumped yolk, quivering and barely peeking through the white as you prick it ever so lightly with your fork? I think not. The delicious mess of ooey, gooey sunny yolk spilling forth all over your dinner is just about the best thing that could happen to anything. So why can’t restaurants, or diners for that matter, see the egg as anything other than a cheap, rubbery substitute for dinner?
I’m not a complicated eater. A good PB&J makes me whimper. I love toast, bitter greens, sausage, pickles, miso, grapefruits, ice cream, and anything edible I can scrounge up in a local field. While I used to eat out a lot, I rarely find restaurants meals as satisfying as I would like them to be anymore. Sometimes Matt and I go out for Japanese (or Chinese or Korean) or a pizza or when there’s grilling and fire involved. In these moments, I relish letting another person be in control and guide me through their idea of good food. But generally, restaurants and chefs don’t deserve that kind of power. And until the buttery haze of restaurant kitchens can slow down and cook something simple, like a fried egg in a bowl of rice, I’ll make it myself, thankyouverymuch.
The more I cook, the simpler things become. The more I cook, the more I want to explore the ingredients I love and see how far we can go together. Recipes, agendas, and entertaining myself by finding the next complicated and titillating recipe I will try just don’t compare to a good bowl of rice. This is kind of a revelation for me. I felt it prudent to qualify dishes that have filled the homepage of this blog in the last few weeks. See, I am starting to really love to cook for myself. It’s true. When Matt and I first stopped eating out so much, I was enchanted by the kitchen but needed to entice myself with *newness.* I would say to myself today, Anjuli, you’re going to make the sh*t out of some tacos. And off I would go… to market after market, amassing a whole mess of ingredients, spending hours in the kitchen and then BAM, stuff those tacos in my mouth in a matter of seconds. Many people start cooking by making a big ‘ole elaborate meal once in a while. While I love this kind of exhilarating cooking, it doesn’t have a beat I can dance to.
Donburi, simply, a bowl. A bowl of rice, brown for me. A bowl of rice is as delicious a model for a good meal as any I can think of. That is a beat I can dance to any day. Lately I sit around and think about rice, chicken, eggs, greens. I tinker with salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and pungent. I taste, tinker, taste, tinker. It may not sound fancy or glamorous or decadent or what not, but it makes me happier than I can remember. I used to look at a bowl of food, and brown rice food at that, as the most heinous form of macrobiotic torture imaginable. Times a changing. A good bowl stuffed with rice and perfectly suited to fit in the palm of your hand can be topped with just about anything. How about it?
If you don’t cook on a regular basis, start here: take a half cup of brown rice, soak overnight in enough liquid to cover by 2″, drain the following day; simmer in 1 1/2 cups of liquid for twenty minutes, lid cocked, let sit covered, heat off, for 10 minutes. You could probably spend the rest of your life, happily, making donburi. Here are a few places to start.
Donburi (serves 2)
1 cup brown rice
3 cups of water
Dollop of ghee or butter
Wash the rice. Soak overnight in enough water to cover by 2″.
Drain. Place in a medium sauce pan with water. Bring to a boil. Turn down to simmer, lid cocked, for 20 minutes. Make sure it’s simmering, not boiling. You’ll know it’s done when the rice is tender and the water has cooked off. Turn off, add the ghee, give it a stir with a fork, making sure not to mash the rice, and let sit 10 minutes.
Variations (from simplest to most complex):
w/ fried EGG and FURIKAKE – Fry an egg in butter with salt and pepper; when ready to eat, add the rice to the bowl, sprinkle on furikake, and top with an egg.
w/ fried EGG and sauteed SPRING ONIONS – Wash and slice a few spring onions; saute in 1 teaspoon ghee or butter w/ salt and pepper; add to rice while it’s setting in place of ghee when the heat is turned off. Fry an egg in butter and add salt and pepper. Add to top.
w/ fried EGG and wilted ARUGULA in a MISO sauce –
Clean 3 shiitake with paper towels and slice thinly. Wash 1 bunch arugula. Slice 1 spring onion thinly. Combine 1 tablespoon miso and 3 tablespoons hot water in a small bowl and mash and stir with the back of a spoon until the miso is disintegrated. Heat 1 teaspoon ghee in a saute pan on medium. Add the miso and stir. Add in the shiitake. Allow to cook on medium until reduces by half, about 5 minutes. Add in 1 teaspoon balsamic and cook for 1 minute. Add in the arugula. Cover and wilt, about 3 minutes. Remove the lid and cook off any remaining water. Remove from heat.
When the rice is done cooking, mix in the arugula and the scallion and allow the rice to sit for 10 minutes. When you’re about ready, fry your egg, spoon the rice into a bowl and top with the egg.
Mix 1 teaspoon miso + 1/4 cup hot chicken stock in a small bowl. Clean and cut 1 head broccoli into florets, and steam for 5 minutes. Rinse. Heat 1/2 tablespoon butter on medium low. Add in the broccoli and saute for a minute. Add in the miso and chicken broth mixture and saute a minute more. Grind in some pepper and add a pinch of paprika. Add in 1 cup cooked, shredded or cubed chicken and cook until heated through. Serve atop rice.
w/ GREEN rice w/ CHICKEN and TOMATOES
Pulse 1 bunch dark, leafy greens (mizuna, spinach, collard, arugula), 1 cup chicken stock, and 1 bunch scallions scallion in a food processor or a blender until bits but not pureed. Add to rice along with 2 cups water. Saute for a couple of minutes. Add 2 cups water. Cook rice as per usual, adding ghee, and letting rice set for 10 minutes covered off heat.
Meanwhile… dice 1/2 sweet onion and 2 tomatoes. Roast 1/2 teaspoon each of cumin, coriander, and fennel on medium until toasted. Grind. Heat 1 teaspoon ghee in a heavy-bottomed pan on medium. Add onion and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add in spice blend and a pinch of paprika and saute 30 seconds more. Add in tomatoes and saute until softening, about 5 minutes. Add a few grinds of fresh black pepper. Add in 1 cup cooked shredded or cubed chicken and a handful of minced, fresh cilantro and cook for a couple of minutes until heated through. Serve over the rice.