This submit originally appeared in the August 14, 2023 edition of The Shift, a location for Eater’s editors and writers to reveal their recommendations and pro eating ideas — in some cases thoughtful, often bizarre, but generally someone’s go-to move. Subscribe now.
I really loathe most dump-concentrated cooking. If you are unfamiliar with that genre of food items preparing, the most obvious instance of its strengths and lots of weaknesses would be dump cakes. To me, the horror is in the identify: It is a style of “non-recipe” cooking, popularized in mid-century The united states, whereby you take canned fruit or pie filling and, yes, dump it with some shop-bought cake combine and, I do not know… provide a texturally questionable dish to people today you like or something. At its greatest, it can be a uncomplicated, effective route to an unadorned dessert.
The dilemma is the tactic: When individuals use this method of dumping whatsoever substances they have on hand without having substantially imagined, more usually than not the act final results in an inelegant, unsightly mess, bereft of strategy and precision. In numerous means it feels like the non secular precursor to the viral movies of persons cooking bizarre shit on TikTok, like Spaghetti-O pie or carrying out anything carnal to a block of Velveeta.
Nonetheless — and it pains me to say it — there can be some advantage in cooking like this.
When I really don’t want to feed the exhausted meat accommodate that is my entire body, I dump regardless of what I have in the fridge into my rice cooker and hope for the ideal.
At this level, I’ve been carrying out it for several years. I grew up with a rice cooker and have ongoing to use just one as an grownup. In the age of single-use appliances, the rice cooker is anything but. Its skill to completely transform a wide range of grains into many different rice dishes (many thanks to my distinct rice cooker’s configurations) has produced it my go-to for food prep, as I routinely batch up some rice for the 7 days. Now I’m normally prepared for fried rice, stir fries, grain bowls, you identify it.
One particular day, I felt like altering things up. If incorporating an onion or aromatics allows flavor a pot of beans, why not rice, also? Just after washing the rice and measuring out the drinking water (with the time-tested two-finger approach), I added 50 % an onion and some smashed cloves of garlic. They presented a delicate flavor and had been softened by the machine’s cooking cycle. The 1st number of instances I tried out this I eliminated the put in veg, but ultimately I just ate it up relatively than building unnecessary squander. Oniony and delightful!
As I grew far more assured in producing and flavoring rice this way, I experimented with some garlic, spices, a can of tomatoes, a dollop of tomato paste, and a canned chipotle. The consequence was a flavorful (albeit underseasoned) just take on tomatoey Spanish rice, minus a number of added methods including sauteing or toasting the rice in a independent pot beforehand. Incorporating salt at the conclusion absolved me of my sins of underseasoning. Ever given that that results, a single-pot rice cooker foods have been my infinitely riffable again-pocket go.
Including some lap cheong (Chinese sausage), edamame, frozen corn, precooked or canned beans, or other veggies to your rice carefully cooks every thing in one go, which is fantastic for evenings when you never have the strength to make nearly anything much more elaborate. Lap cheong is a wonderful ingredient, as the heat and steam soften up the sturdier meat wonderfully, and it contributes a sweet, chewy chunk to the food. Introducing soy sauce, sesame oil, gochujang, vinegar, hoisin, sambal — I imagine in my heart any sauce or condiment will do — ahead of you major off with drinking water takes the concluded rice to a different stage. Or swap water for your favored stock to amplify the flavor. (I make a weekly chicken stock from shop-acquired rotisserie rooster just for this objective.)
And your additions do not have to stop at aromatics or premade shares. When it will come to rice cooker riffs, your only limits are your individual creativeness, the dimensions of your pot, and how tenuous your marriage with foods protection is. I’ve even noticed some TikTok creators nestle raw hen into their rice to cook, much too I’m as well anxious about contamination, but godspeed to them. I also have garnishes on deck at all moments to jazz up these rice bowls. Whenever I have to have to raise my taste, convey in more colour, or differ the textures of a meal, I convert to pickled shallots, scallions, cucumbers, nori, you title it. Ultimately, it all feels additional luscious, further cozy. If I have leftover proteins like steak, tofu, or rooster, I just toss 1 on best. Even when the ensuing dish might not be magazine address-deserving, it’s nevertheless alluring enough to stoke my urge for food, a delectable, trusted canvas for lower-work cooking.
The distinction among this method and other dump-based mostly preparations lies in the results: In this design and style of one-pot cooking, every single of the elements is balanced in each chunk — the resulting meal feels nourishing, healthful, and unrushed. I just cannot help but extol its chief virtue: As a mild cooking strategy, it in no way fails to deliver superior-yield nourishment on times when placing on the figurative oxygen mask feels like a monumental task.
Of course, I really don’t assert to have found out anything at all new with this strategy. I’ve witnessed social media creators embrace very similar procedures by steaming salmon, utilizing tinned sardines, and even forgoing rice completely to make dumpling noodle soup. With this style of cooking, as long as you have the appropriate tactic, the sky’s the limit.