Thursday, May 9, 2013

Happy Birthday, Honey

My mother turned 90 yesterday, and she's still going strong.
We've always called her 'Honey.' Not Mom or Mother. Every since I can remember - Honey. I'm told Doug, my oldest brother, called her Honey one day when he was young - probably thinking he was being smart aleck - and it stuck. Probably because it fits. Honey.

On her birthday, I made the dish she taught me. Spanish Rice. Or in this case, since I am in Geneva, I'll call it Rice Swiss, or Riz Suisse. When I made it in Argeles, I called it Catalan Rice. In Montreal, I guess it would have been Lachine Rice since I lived by the canal and the river. I've now made my favorite dish in five different countries - Canada, France, Switzerland, Texas and the US.

When we called to wish her Happy Birthday and Happy Mother's Day, Honey and I had a good laugh remembering the time I tried to cook it in Florida. I was a teenager, playing in the Orange Bowl golf tournament, staying at my friend Teddy Salveson's on Miami Beach. I did not know then there was a difference between Minute Rice and regular rice that expands when you cook it. We had rice everywhere! Teddy's mother was not impressed with my culinary skills.

In Honey's honor, here's probably the only recipe you'll ever get from me:

Note: I cook mostly by "feel," not by measurement. Good thing this is a dish you can easily adjust in many directions. 

Honey's Spanish Rice, as modified by me
(If you like it credit her; if you don't blame moi)

Serves 3-4.

1. Boil 2-3 cups of rice. The original recipe is long grain Minute Rice, but I cannot get that in Europe so I use the regular rice.
2. Dice half an onion - lightly grill in oil over low heat.
3. Brown about 1 lb of hamburger / ground beef (boeuf haché) in a 10 or 12-inch fry pan - ideally one with a top (to keep the steam in). I prefer the 75-80% version with plenty of fat, which helps create more juice for the rice to soak up.
4. Add a little Worcester sauce (you can add more when served, depending on your personal preference)
5. Stir the grilled onions into the hamburger. (You might substitute onion bits.)
6. Pour in a can of diced tomatoes in juice and stir into the hamburger. I like the versions that include oregano, basil and garlic or are fire-grilled, sometimes both. The amount of tomatoes depends on how juicy you like the dish. (I tried chopping up whole tomatoes, but there's just not enough juice that way.)
7. Mix in the rice and stir. I start by sprinkling a light 'layer' of rice on top, then add more gradually. Too much Minute Rice will dry out the dish.
8. Add basil, oregano, garlic and other spices to suit your taste. I particularly like Salamida's 'Pinch' seasoning from Binghamton NY or Schwartz's french fry seasoning from Montreal. Something like Mrs. Dash would probably do as well.
9. If Minute Rice, simmer on low to medium heat for about 12-15 minutes. (If regular rice, a few minutes are plenty for the rice to absorb the sauce.) Stir every few minutes. Taste test to see if the rice is soft enough to your taste. You can use this phase to adjust the taste - more Worcestershire, more Pinch ...
10. Serve warm/hot. Sprinkle on some Parmesan cheese. Fresh-grated is best.11. Add Worcestershire sauce, Pinch, salt, pepper to personal taste.

You can add other veggies as well. I've thrown in steamed broccoli and carrots at different times. Could also add red and green peppers, I guess (Honey said she didn't like them so I've never had it that way).

If you have leftover, when you heat it up the next day, add a little spaghetti sauce for moistness.

Thanks, Honey. For Spanish Rice. For giving me life. And so much more. Love you.

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