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In the Kitchen With: Aarti Sequeira’s Lucia-Lucica Fried Rice

by Kristina Gill

aartirice
There was a time in my life when I worked more than 18 hours a day, and was on call on Saturdays and Sundays. I was out of the house at 6 am and home some time after 1 am. I never really had time to cook, so my freezer was full of frozen udon noodles and edamame, and in my refrigerator was just a large Tupperware container of cooked basmati rice that I’d reheat when I wasn’t too tired to eat. When I saw this week’s recipe for Lucia-Lucica Fried Rice by Food Network star Aarti Sequeira, I was transported back to that time in my life. There were so many late nights back then that I dreamt of having great fried rice (but had no ingredients to make it with!). Hopefully, you do have the ingredients and you can be inspired to throw together a quick meal with some of your leftover rice this weekend! As a bonus to Aarti’s fried rice recipe, we’ve also included her technique for making perfect basmati rice. Following these instructions really does make a phenomenal difference in the finished product, so it’s definitely worth a try! Be sure to set some aside, though, so that the following day you can try the Lucia-Lucica Fried Rice. –Kristina

Aarti-Paarti-COVER
About Aarti: Aarti Sequeira is host of Taste in Translation on the Cooking Channel. She won The Next Food Network Star, hosted her own show, Aarti Party (2011-2013), and appears on many Food Network shows including Chopped and Cutthroat Kitchen. She has a food blog and an online cooking show.  Born in Mumbai and raised in Dubai, Aarti moved to Chicago to attend Northwestern University and now lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Brendan McNamara, and her daughter Eliyah. Her cookbook, Aarti Paarti, was released this week!

Hear the story behind Aarti’s fried rice after the jump!

aartiBASMATI

Perfect Basmati Rice
Serves 3 to 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup white basmati rice
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • Big pinch of kosher salt
  1. Pour the rice into a large bowl and add cool water to cover. Now, swirl your hand through the rice, moving it in circles and figure eights, being careful not to crush the rice between your fingers. The grains will begin to release their starch, turning the water cloudy. Pour off the water, keeping your hand cupped by the rim of the bowl to catch any grains that try to fly down the drain. Repeat this process four or five times until the water runs nigh on clear. Drain the rice one more time, cover with cool water, and set aside to soak for 20 to 30 minutes on the counter. The grains will drink up a little water and turn opaque; the soaking will ensure nice long grains and keep them from breaking in the cooking process. Don’t soak the rice for any longer than 30 minutes, though.
  2. When you’re ready to cook the rice, bring the water and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Drain the rice and add it to the boiling water. Stir once and return the water to a boil (you can hurry this along by semi-covering the pot, but don’t walk away as it may boil over!). As soon as it boils, cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 15 minutes.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat and fluff the rice gently with a fork (it’s okay if the rice still seems a little wet). Place a clean folded dishtowel over the saucepan, cover, and allow to sit for 5 to 10 minutes more; don’t skip this step – this is what helps achieve that flufiness we’re looking for! Serve.

Luca-Lucica Fried Rice
Indian-Style Fried Rice with Chorizo, Peanuts and Mustard Seeds

My grandmother Lucia created a “Jiffy Pulao,” leftover rice stir-fried with peanuts, mustard seeds and garlic, out of necessity. Here’s how my mum tells it:

“In those days, for most Indians, having a refrigerator at home was a luxury. Mum’s way of using the leftover rice was making a quick pulao for us, which was precious to us as it was very rare that she would cook us something like this. One day she gave it away to a poor beggar woman who was hungry and begging for food; we were so sad! But that was how generous Mummy was.”

I get my middle name, Lucica, from my gran. And so, this is my version of her pulao, a culinary meeting of the minds with a granny I never met, but because of her cooking, feel as if I did.

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon sunflower oil
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 (10-ounce) Mexican-style chorizo sausage
  • 2 medium red bell peppers, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon brown or black mustard seeds
  • Leaves from 1 sprig curry leaves (optional)
  • ¼ cup peanuts (any kind, roasted, salted, unsalted, etc.)
  • 1/3 cup frozen peas
  • ¾ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 4 cups cold cooked basmati rice
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • Small handful of fresh cilantro

Smoorti Tip: Be sure to use cold leftover rice! The fresh, hot stuff is too soft and will turn into starchy mush.

  1. In a large nonstick wok or skillet, heat 1 teaspoon of the oil over medium heat. Add the beaten egg and allow a thin omelet to form, then break it up. Cook the egg through and transfer to a plate.
  2. Add the chorizo to the pan, breaking up the meat with a wooden spatula. Cook until some of the oil starts sizzling around the edges, about 2 minutes. Add the bell peppers and cook, stirring only every now and then, until the chorizo crisps up a little, about 5 minutes. Remove from pan.
  3. Wipe out the pan with a paper towel and return it to the stovetop. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and heat it over medium-high heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the garlic, cumin seeds and mustard seeds, which should sizzle immediately. Arm yourself with a lid. When the mustard seeds start to pop, add the curry leaves, covering the pan immediately to protect yourself! As the popping subsides, add the peanuts, peas and turmeric and stir-fry for about 1 minute, until fragrant.
  4. Finally, add the rice, cooked egg and chorizo–bell pepper mixture. Stir well and cook for 5 to 10 minutes more, until warmed through. Finish with the lemon juice and a flourish of cilantro. Serve immediately.

Why Aarti loves this recipeThis dish came about as an homage to my maternal grandmother, Lucia Harrison, who never let any food go to waste. Day-old rice (in the days before refrigerators) was turned into a “jiffy pulao” cooked with turmeric, peanuts and cumin. I thought of her one day when I had leftover rice from Chinese takeout the night before. I was going to make fried rice, but inspired by her flavourings and the tube of Mexican chorizo in the fridge, this sweet puppy came to be. It’s the kind of dish I truly enjoy – where the main ingredient is so transformed that it arrives on the table so much grander than it did in the kitchen. All images by Matt Armendariz.

AartiArmendariz

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