This’ll Put Some Starch In Your Bloomers

I’ve never been a girl for double starches.

With very few exceptions (mainly relating to those freewheeling, chaotic, tradition-dictated holiday meals),  double starch is a bad idea. 

What even is potato pizza?  It’s as ridiculous as pineapple pizza.

But really, there’s a reason why we don’t have mashed potatoes with our grits, or tater tots on our sandwiches, or noodles and rice.

Chicken and dumplings over mashed potatoes.
Completely unnecessary.

But.

Many Middle-Eastern cultures enjoy a side dish of rice with short pieces of pasta in it.  And, there’s a nifty little San Francisco treat that Petey and I and make from scratch now.

The other day I had a starchy epiphany.

I was inventorying my pasta supplies.

I discovered I had about three bags of a Mexican pasta that’s sold in all the grocery stores; La Moderna.  The bags I had were fideo, angel hair pasta about 1 ½ inches long.  It costs between thirty-three and fifty cents a bag.

So I thought the next time we needed a starch, I’d do a rice/fideo combo, like Rice-A-Roni, and the Lebanese dish.

I made it to go with a pot of field peas with snaps and chicken.  It was really good—Petey had seconds, which is the best endorsement of any experimental dish.

We had a ton left, and while I cleaned up the kitchen, I tasted the roni-rice by itself.  The toasting and butter it was cooked in gave it big flavor, even by itself. 

So here’s the thing.

It’s cheap and easy.  It’s tasty with a variety of partners.  And, it can become a new player in a very tired, overdone list of starches.

I’ve gotta say, those San Franciscans aren’t messing around when they call it a treat.

I wonder what that might be…

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom.

Roni-Rice™

1 cup long-grain, Basmati, or Jasmine rice

1 cup fideo

2 tablespoons butter, divided

4 cups water

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon cracked pepper

¼ teaspoon dried thyme

Heat a large skillet and add 1 tablespoon of butter.  When it has melted and gets a little foamy, add the rice, then sprinkle ½ the salt and pepper.  Add thyme.  Stir to combine.

Be very gentle with the rice, if you are too abrupt, the rice will break up and you will have a gruel-like texture which is not appealing.

Stirring occasionally (and gently), let rice toast and brown (about 8 minutes).  When lightly browned and aromatic, pour from skillet to a large heavy saucepan or Dutch oven.

Repeat with the fideo, omitting thyme (5 minutes).  The fideo will burn quickly, so watch it carefully and gently toss often.

When both are toasted, add the water to the pot and bring to a boil.  Cover and turn to medium-low.  Cook for 15-17 minutes or until the water has cooked in, and the rice and noodles are completely cooked through.

Recover pot and let sit, undisturbed for 10-15 minutes.

Fluff gently with a large fork and serve.  Serves 6.  Serve it with something like,

Brown Butter Bechamel with Spinach and Shallots

After the roni-rice has finished cooking, add 1 5ounce bag of fresh baby spinach.  It will wilt and can then be mixed in before service.

Bechamel

½ cup butter

½ cup flour

3 cups 2% milk

½ cup skim milk

15 passes of a fresh nutmeg on a grater

Salt and pepper to taste

In a heavy saucepan, melt butter.  Let it cook until it turns brown and nutty (5 minutes).  Stir in flour and when it’s homogeneous, slowly pour in dairy.  Whisk continuously until it comes to a gentle boil.  Remove from heat.  Either mix in roni-rice or spoon over each serving.

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