In our culture, rice comprises a main component. It’s not only just a side dish. In most cases it constitutes a major part of the meal whether it’s something like Arroz con Pollo (rice and chicken) or Asopao (a hefty stew), or fragrant yellow rice. When my horizons expanded, I discovered there were other methods of preparing rice—such as Italian Risotto, or Indian cumin rice, or Chinese fried rice (by the way, an American invention). The Risotto, combining Arborio rice with broth and grated cheese fascinated me. And I began experimenting, and I came up with this beauty—a simple rice with cheese and a sauce of creamed eggs. In this case, the sauce is simplicity itself: Take a can of cream soup (I like cream of mushroom) and combine it with eggs and the rice. For the cheese, you can use any cheese desired. It could be grated Parmesan, or Swiss, Gruyere, Gouda, Romano, Monterey Jack, etc. For this recipe, I used Cheddar. Whatever cheese ingredient used, you get a hearty, rich, delicious and inexpensive meal, great by itself or served with fish, seafood or meat.
In this dish, the rice is mixed with saffron, to give it that unique taste and color so revered in our cooking. If you don’t have (or can’t afford saffron) then turmeric will give the same glow and coloring. This is something acquired from Indian cuisine. It gives the dish that added oomph. As an added treat, the rice can be served in a ring mold. If you don’t have a mold, take any round pan or pot (with enough space to hold the rice), rinse the pan under cold running water, and stuff it with the cooked rice. Let it sit a couple of minutes. Then unmold, tapping the top of the pan gently, on a plate. Pour the sauce atop the rice, and you got a highfalutin continental dish.
RICE WITH CHEESE AND CREAMED EGGS
1 1/2 cups rice
2 cups water
Salt to taste
1/4 teaspoon saffron or turmeric
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups grated Cheddar cheese (or any variety desired)
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced into thin rings
1 can (10 3/4 oz.) cream of mushroom soup
3 tablespoons water
1/2 cup diced canned pimentos
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
6 hard-cooked eggs, quartered
1. In a 2-quart saucepan or pot, bring the water to a boil. Add rice, saffron and olive oil. Mix well, cover, reduce heat to a simmer and cook until tender and all the liquid has been absorbed (20 minutes to 1/2 hour).
2. Stir in cheese. Cover, and let sit for 10 minutes.
3. While rice is cooking, melt butter in a skillet or fry pan. Add onion and saute until soft and translucent. Stir in mushroom soup, water, pimentos, and parsley.
4. Add eggs and heat briefly.
5. Layer rice/cheese mixture into a ring mold (or individual custard cups) packing tightly with a spoon. Unmold rice ring on a serving plate. Spoon egg sauce over rice, or over individual rice molds.
Yield: 6 servings.