To wash or not to wash rice? In the case of basmati, no matter what my preparation is, I always wash it. It cleans out any small particles and it also rids the rice of any starch on the grain. This starch makes the rice gummier when cooked.
- 2 cups basmati rice
- 4 cups cold water
- 2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds
- 3 cardamom pods, lightly crushed, black seeds reserved, pods discarded
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 12 black peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus 3 tablespoons, cut into slices, optional
- 1 large red onion, peeled and finely diced
- Kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
In a medium bowl, add the rice and 4 cups of cold water. Soak the rice for 1/2 hour.
In a small bowl, add the cumin seeds, cardamom, fennel seeds, cinnamon, black peppercorns, and bay leaves and stir to combine. Turn the mixture out onto a baking sheet and put it in the center of the oven to lightly toast the spices and awaken the flavors, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow the spices to cool.
Heat a medium saute pan over medium heat and add the butter and the onion. Season with salt and cook until the onions are translucent but not brown, about 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the spices. Drain the rice but reserve the soaking water. Stir in the rice and cook until you hear the rice crackling, about 2 minutes. Gently stir in the reserved soaking water. Season with a generous portion of salt and bring the liquid to a simmer over medium heat.
Cook the rice over medium-low heat, uncovered and undisturbed, for about 8 minutes. Take a fork (so as not to damage the rice) and flake a few grains off to taste for doneness. It may need to be cooked another 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow the rice to "rest" (as you would a roast beef) for 10 minutes before "forking" it gently into a serving bowl. Stir in 3 tablespoons of butter, if desired, and serve.