Precision agriculture has enormous potential to raise yields and reduce agricultural inputs and pollution. Nowhere is that potential more evident than with California rice. Using GPS, lasers to level fields, and airplanes to plant seeds. California growers have significantly increased yields in recent decades while substantially reducing water, fertilizer, and pesticide use. California rice also illustrates some of the challenging trade-offs between water use, land use, and other inputs. In this dish, we use a higher yielding hybrid breed from the classic Calhikari rice to make a traditional Japanese-style congee. The dish is intentionally simple, to highlight the creaminess and texture that this high-tech, short-grained rice is capable of.
- 2 quarts water
- 1 ounce (by weight) dried kombu
- 1 ounce (by weight) bonito flake stems from shitake mushrooms
- l ounce dried shitake mushrooms
- 1 cup Calhikari rice
- 4 ounces unsalted butter
- 5 cups dashi (plus more, as needed)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 pound shitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps diced
- 2 ounces unsalted butter
- Pickled watermelon radish:
- 200 grams rice vinegar
- 50 grams white sugar
- 5 grams kosher salt
- 1 medium watermelon radish, julienned
- 1/4 cup shiso leaves, chiffonade
- 1/4 cup chives, finely minced
- 1/2 cup pickled watermelon radish
For the dashi, combine the water and kombu in a pot. Bring to a summer. Remove from heat and add the dried mushrooms and bonito flakes. Let stand 5 minutes, and then strain through a fine strainer. You may repeat with fresh water to make a weaker second dashi. Chill dashi and reserve for up to a week.
To make the pickled radishes, combine the vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, whisking as needed to help the sugar dissolve. Allow to cool and then combine in a container with the radish. Refrigerate for at least a day before serving. Store for up to two weeks. Drain before serving.
The night before you plan on serving the porridge, combine the rice with the measured dashi and reserve chilled. Do not drain until you plan to cook the rice.
Cook the mushrooms in 2 oz. unsalted butter over medium heat in a wide, heavy pan, string frequently. Once the mushrooms have released their liquid and started to brown, season them with salt and pepper. Cook them until deeply browned. Remove the mushrooms from the pan. Add half the remaining 4 oz. butter to the pan and place over medium heat. Meanwhile, drain the soaked rice through a fine strainer set over a bowl. Do not discard this liquid. Add the drained rice to the pan of hot butter and stir well to coat the grains. Toast the rice for two minutes. Add the reserved liquid and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium and cook until the rice is tender, about 10-15 minutes, seasoning with salt as it cooks. You may need to add more
of the dashi as the rice cooks. When the rice is nearly cooked, add in the cooked mushrooms and stir to combine. Remove from the heat and add the remaining 2 oz. butter.
Right before serving, add the shiso and chives to the porridge. Stir well to combine and portion into hot bowls. Add two tablespoons of the pickled radish and serve immediately.