Custom Search

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Frugal College Cooking: Rice Cooker Cookbooks

As usual, I am in a weird position vis a vis the zeitgeist. I am always a little too early or a little too late. Now it is the zeitgeist of rice cooker cookbooks.

There are two decent extant rice cooker cookbooks. I've gotten both at the library, which purchased them at my request. (Thank you, bookbuyer!). Decent, but not quite what I'm looking for. What I'm looking for: first, decent recipes that don't overuse oversalted convenience foods for the harried scholar. Second, recipes that use the RICE COOKER as it was meant to be used and don't tell you to try to saute an onion in the rice cooker (or brown meat in there). Others present recipes that depend on first sauteing something on the stove and so on, and if you can do that, why bother with the rice cooker. Perhaps what I'm looking for does not exist?

The first, which sounded very promising, is by the person who writes those excellent slow cooker cookbooks: This book is great for the grainhead: it tells you how to make almost every kind of rice imaginable (wehani, anyone?), plus every other grain from the common to the obscure. There are not all that many recipes that meet criterion #2 above.

The second sounded even more promising: This is a little book from a local small publisher. In fact, the author IS the publisher.

The Louisiana origin is, of course, a good sign. Some people here say they don't like to travel outside the state because "the food is bad." (I am not making that up.) But Louisiana cooking has a kind of split personality. There are lots of good local raw ingredients, especially seafood (sadly, thanks to BP, this may not be the case much longer). Still, if you look at the classic Louisiana homecooking books, you see many recipes that rely on canned soups, velveeta, and the like. So you'll see a recipe for shrimp or crawfish fettuccine--made with velveeta. Or crawfish enchiladas--made with cream of mushroom soup.

This book allows for searching, so I suggest you take a spin. Some recipes have you brown in the cooker. Another--for shrimp fettuccine--tempted me, but it called for pasta, water, shrimp, and a pound of Mexican salsa cheese (that weird orange stuff that comes in a jar). I decided not to subject my poor shrimp to that cheese.

I also discovered two books on the horizon. Like anything on the horizon, these may prove disappointing when met in reality. Still, I have put in a request to the agreeable bookbuyer at my library. Both are scheduled for publication in the next few months.

The first is guaranteed to be a good read, since the writer is a writer, Roger Ebert: I discovered Ebert's blog on rice cooker cooking last year, when I first started on my quest. He seems to have the right idea. For instance, he says he sometimes starts with a can of fairly healthy canned soup and then doctors it up--adding beans, veggies, rice, and so on, all of which would reduce the vile canned food quotient. Second sounds great, but who knows?

Check out Ebert's blog if you have the chance. It is a pleasure to read, but there are hundreds of comments.Actually, the comments are great and Ebert's responses to the comments even greater. (I have recently learned about Ebert's medical problems, which are such that he can no longer eat. Yet he still writes and is even putting out a cookbook. He must truly be an amazing person.)

The second book on the horizon is an "Everything" book. . Again, very promising; again, the proof will be in the pudding.

I've noticed that for newer books, Amazon no longer includes the SEARCH inside the book I mentioned in a previous post, but LOOK inside. The latter is much more limited, obviously, since Amazon controls what you see. Sadly, I will be able to do much less testing of cookbooks before purchase.


hostess of the humble bungalow said...

I never knew that you could cook other things in a rice cooker! I use mine just for rice...until now...thanks I am going to do some research.

Frugal Scholar said...

@hostess--Keep me posted on your research. I'll report "findings" here too.

WebPub said...

My mom and dad used to put Chinese sausages on top of the rice in the rice cooker. They would come out plump and juicy. Plus they would infuse the rice with that sweet, rich aroma from the sausages. I hadn't thought about that for many years, but your article reminded me. Thank you so much. I'm a newly single dad, and I need to find some low effort recipes so that my boy gets good hot meals. I was going to buy a slow cooker, but I think I'll try out one of these books. I already have a rice cooker. Thanks again.

Mike Rocha

Frugal Scholar said...

@Webpub--I've been wondering about sausages--thanks for the great idea. I've never had Chinese sausages, but will be in northern California in a few weeks, so will be able to buy some.