I go through bursts of cooking. I’ll plan out a delicious, healthy week of new recipes and then spend the next week cooking easy things. So right now we’re in a week of easy things. And the other evening I had planned to have salmon out of the freezer (Costco) and whatever vegetables we had in the fridge to eat up. My husband had to stay late at work, so I had extra time to cook something. Since I thought rice would make a good salmon side, I went looking for something easy and hands off. While I didn’t find something hands off (HA!) I did find this recipe for baked rice. And it is cheesy. And so good. Basically it is macaroni and cheese but with rice. And it uses a third less cheese than my mac and cheese recipe, so this would be good on a night when you don’t happen to have 24 oz. of cheese lying around.
Baked Rice Casserole, slightly adapted from The Best Slow & Easy Recipes, America’s Test Kitchen
4 T butter
1 medium onion, chopped
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed (about 1 T)
2 T all-purpose flour
4 c low sodium chicken broth
4 c whole milk
2 c water
3 c long grain white rice
1 1/2 t salt
1/4 t ground pepper
1/8 t cayenne pepper
8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 2 c)
2 T butter, melted
1/2 c panko bread crumbs
1. Adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat to 400 degrees. Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until softened 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until golden, about 1 minute.
2. Slowly whisk in the broth, milk, and water until smooth and bring to a simmer, whisking often. Stir in the rice, salt, pepper, and cayenne and return to a simmer. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring often, until the rice has absorbed much of the liquid and is just tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the cheddar.
3. Mix the bread crumbs with the melted butter. Pour the rice mixture into a 13 x 9 inch baking dish and sprinkle with the bread crumb topping. Bake until the topping is browned and the casserole is bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes.
4. Remove dish from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes.
Recipe notes: Cook’s Illustrated almost always calls for making your own bread crumbs from slices of high quality bread and pulsing them in your food processor. I’m not willing to dirty up more bowls in my kitchen for that, so I just use a can of panko crumbs from the pantry. Also I have been short-cutting it with garlic lately and using minced garlic from a jar. I feel a little guilty doing this, but honestly, it tastes good and it is so fast and easy; I’m not sorry.
One of the benefits to making an enormous dish of cheesy rice with only 2 adults who eat it (kids don’t know what they’re missing!) is that you are left with a lot of leftovers. And just like mac and cheese this reheats very well. What I have been doing with the leftovers, though, is heating them up kind of like you would if you were making risotto cakes with leftover risotto. I melt some butter in a frying pan, then scoop out a large chuck of rice casserole. Press it into a pile of bread crumbs on both sides and cook it in the butter until it’s heated through and both sides are crispy.